Banking applications for iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry and other mobile devices are growing fast, but not all consumers are keen to download specialized apps from their bank. Some prefer to bank using just a web browser on their device.

ComScore, a firm that measures digital commerce, says that in the first half of 2011, mobile app usage for banking information increased from 8.7 million users to 12.7 million users. Browser usage for banking information increased at a slower rate, but is still larger than the app market-expanding from 15.4 million to 17.5 million users.

This large mass of browser faithful is prompting mobile banking technology providers to improve their mobile web technology, particularly as newer smartphones offer a web user experience that's closer to that of a PC than was possible in the past.

Jack Henry's ProfitStars, for example, just finished work on a new version of its mobile website platform that looks and feels like a desktop application.

"In the past couple of years, mobile websites have gone from being text oriented to being more graphical," says Guy Edwards, director of web solutions for ProfitStars. "So if you're looking for CD rates, today browsers can render graphics and rotate banners. You can create a more interactive and competitive experience."

The updated version is compatible with all internet banking providers and includes a content management system that lets bank staff modify mobile content quickly and have that content automatically configured for the smaller screen.

Jack Henry didn't disclose users for the new product, but with 1,000 bank clients for its Web management and hosting service, the firm has a large existing base to cross sell. It faces competition in the mobile web space from other core providers such as Fiserv, which offers mobile banking technology via an earlier acquisition of M-Com, and FIS; as well as mobile banking tech firms such as Clairmail.

In addition to re-imagining browser-based mobile banking, these vendors are also considering how mobile web interacts with other web enabled channels such as tablets, PCs and the call center.

"Banks are looking to be smart about where they invest their dollars," says Susan Hawkins, senior vice president and group executive for FIS ebanking, mobile and commercial treasury solutions. "One of the ways they are looking to do that is by leveraging the investment that they've already made in the online channel to make the web accessible and customized for each device."

FIS' original mobile web platform was designed to optimize web banking functions such as cash management and electronic payments for the smaller screen of mobile devices. Hawkins says the tech firm has upgraded that platform to accommodate the use of several channels simultaneously by sharing customer information among channels. "A consumer or a business customer may interact with the bank via three or four channels at the same time. You may be entering a transaction online or on a mobile device, or shopping on a tablet app," Hawkins says. A sample use case is to link mobile remote deposit capture or person-to-person payments with merchant rewards enabled by GPS. Hawkins says there are several banks in pilot with such a product.

In a statement to BTN, Clairmail says it first offered what it calls a "triple play" mobile banking solution in 2007, allowing banks to deploy mobile web, text banking and native apps via the same platform and process. Clairmail's first stab at a more intuitive interface was a mobile web browser application accessed via iPhone that has a look and navigation similar to native iPhone apps. Clairmail more recently released a similar updates to its browser-based Android and BlackBerry mobile banking offerings that mimic applications written for those devices.