May 4, 2010
Mint.com, a personal online financial service from Intuit, released its Android application on Monday. As with the previously released Mint.com iPhone app, the Android version allows users to view balances, predict cash flow, review budgets, set alerts, and drill down to view individual transactions.
The decision to build an Android version was based on market trends toward Android adoption as well as vocal user requests. A version of Mint.com for Blackberry is also being considered. "We're still evaluating how we want to allocate our resources and timing," says Atish Mehta, lead mobile engineer at Intuit. "People who are screaming [for a Blackberry version] are screaming very loudly, but not as loudly as the Android users." The application takes advantage of three Android-specific capabilities: Live Folders: Users can see data from the Home screen without having to launch an application. "Without having to go into the Mint app, you can just get a quick view of recent transactions," says Mehta. Global Search: Android's search framework allows users to search across multiple sources of information, including browser bookmarks, browser history, contacts, and now financial transactions tracked by Mint.com. "We hook into the global search feature of the Android OS," says Mehta. "If I type 'Chipotle,' it'll match both Web results and transactions in the Mint.com Android app." App Widgets: These miniature application views can be embedded in other applications (such as the Home screen) and receive periodic updates. "You can add the widget to view your balances," says Mehta. Users still have to visit the Mint.com Web site to create a new account or to establish online connections with banking and financial institutions. Future versions of the mobile software will include visualizations of financial data, including graphs and charts based on available financial data, notes Mehta. Users can already find these visualizations through Mint.com, but because the site uses Flash technology from Adobe, the graphics do not render through the iPhone Web browser. The Android Web browser has not yet been tested in this regard. From a developer's perspective, building an Android app was a successful undertaking. "The overall experience was good," says Mehta. "The APIs were intuitive, and we were able to reach out to Google to get some help and feedback in how to do things in the Android-recommended way." However, Apple's development tools currently provide a stronger set of capabilities around user interface development. "The iPhone development environment has a really nice interface designer," notes Mehta. "The whole Apple world is very interface- and UI-focused." Testing was the other major Android challenge. "There's only one iPhone compared to many different Android devices, and so our [Android] testing efforts were more complex, as we had to test on five or six different devices instead of just one," says Mehta. "It's guaranteed to work on all devices, but we're not comfortable shipping unless it has been tested on as many devices as possible."
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