Things seem to have been moving rather smoothly for the folks at online banking startup Simple. They’ve spent the last year fleshing out their mobile apps with some much-needed features and added some 25,000 customers to their ranks since July. Now the team is looking to add yet another feature to the fold in the coming months: Simple-to-Simple fund transfers.
Yeah, fine, I’ll admit the concept doesn’t immediately sound like a game-changer. Just as the name implies, Simple customers will be able to quickly exchange sums of money from directly within the app, a stark contrast from some of the clunkier peer-to-peer transfer methods used by competitors like Chase or Wells Fargo. Considering the sort of oomph that recent updates have brought to Simple’s mobile apps, something like this was only a matter of time.
Here’s the catch, though — Simple’s iOS development team (which at this point only consists of two guys, Tom Wanielista and Collin Ruffenach) has figured out a clever way to facilitate those funds transfers when you’re physically near your recipient. It’s called MoneyDrop, and with it Simple hopes to do away with the need for paper money entirely.
Those are bold words to be sure, but I caught a brief glimpse of the new feature in action and it seems to get the job done smoothly even in its unfinished state. The feature allows Simple customers to detect other ones nearby using Bluetooth Low Energy, and all local compatible users will be displayed in what Simple calls the Arena.
If you’re the one who needs to send money, you find your recipient’s avatar and name, tap on it, punch in the amount to want to send, and confirm your choice. Meanwhile, the recipient tackles a confirmation screen of their own, and voila — that money has just changed hands without the need to scrounge through pockets or find an ATM.
Now if you’re anything like me, your first reaction was something akin to shock. Using Bluetooth to facilitate money transfers? There’s no way that could ever go south, right? As it turns out, Simple was careful to minimize its reliance on Bluetooth from the get-go: the app assigns users a randomized ID each time they fire up MoneyDrop, and those IDs are the only things shared over that Bluetooth connection. Once that initial handshake is done, both the sender’s and the recipient’s temporary IDs are checked in the backend to ensure they match the permanent identifiers tied to each user’s Simple account. Not too shabby for a project that was conceived and implemented within the span of about five months.
Alas, some users will be able to start playing with MoneyDrop sooner than others. It’s slated to hit iOS first, though the feature’s reliance on Bluetooth LE means you’ll have to have an iPhone 4S or newer to actually use it. I’m told that an Android version of the feature is currently in the works, too, and it should land on supported devices not too long after iOS users get the nod. Only time will tell if MoneyDrop will be enough to tempt Simple users from handling cash entirely, but if nothing else it should help make the argument to switch banks just a little more compelling.