New Mobile Payments Tool Makes Transactions as Easy as Texting

Imagine you're texting with a friend that you borrowed a few bucks from the other day. They gently remind you that you owe them money and ask when you're going to pay them back. No problem. You just press a button on your smartphone's keyboard and bam! It's done — payment made, without ever leaving your chat.

Sound too easy? A fintech dream? Well it’s a reality… at least in India, that is.

ICICI Bank has rolled out iMobile SmartKeys, which lets customers transfer funds and make payments while chatting. The pioneering new feature enables users to make quick and secure payments from any mobile application that uses a smartphone’s keyboard.

icici_bank_imobile_smartkeys_appUsers can transfer money, reimburse friends and pay bills from within any application — chat, messenger, email, games, search browser, etc. — simply by pressing a button that ICICI’s app integrates into the smartphone’s standard keyboard. It all happens seamlessly and quickly, without ever needing to switch apps or interrupting whatever you were already doing.

This innovative and unique new feature works on Apple iPhone 5 and above, and iOS 8.1 and up. An version for Android phones is also planned.

ICICI is reportedly the first financial institution in Asia to enable payments in such a manner using a smartphone’s built-in keyboard. It’s built on an architectural backbone dubbed the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), a set of standard app APIs developed by the Reserve Bank of India, the country’s central bank, to facilitate the next generation of online payments. The system was built essentially to eliminate the need for either cash or plastic credit cards.

ICICI Bank has integrated the UPI system into its iMobile’ banking app, and on Pockets, its digital bank offshoot that anyone can use for peer-to-peer and e-commerce payments, including non-ICICI Bank customers.

How Does iMobile SmartKeys Work?

Customers can download the iMobile SmartKeys app from the Apple store. Then they initiate a one-time process to add the payment button to their keyboard: Phone Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards > Add New Keyboard > add ‘iMobile’ as a third-party keyboard, and enable “Allow Full Access.”

Once it’s been downloaded and installed, using iMobile SmartKeys involves just three simple steps:

1. Accessing the Digital Keyboard. SmartKeys can be launched from anywhere where default keyboard is open in iPhone. It can be during a chat, messaging app, email, contacts search, browser — just about anywhere where a user can type something. While the user is in a chat, messenger or other app, they can access iMobile SmartKeys simply by long-pressing the little ‘Globe’ icon that appears on the their keyboard.

2. Authentication. Users need to authenticate themselves using either a PIN code or Touch ID. ICICI Bank says iMobile SmartKeys uses state-of-the-art technology to secure transactions. The service follows “a strict authentication protocol” using Touch ID or MPIN, based on the customer’s preference. Customers can proceed with transactions only after they authenticate using the method they specified.

3. Transfer Funds to Recipient. Users can select the payee from the list of authorized contacts they have set up, then enter the amount and hit the submit button. Done.

Users can also choose to make payments using the “Favorites” option — e.g., frequent transactions like bill payments.

The whole process takes a few seconds — as few as five seconds for the fast-fingered. The user can then notify the recipient with the transaction details in the chat or messenger application.

There is a limit for the amount one can pay or transfer using iMobile SmartKeys. ICICI has capped transactions at Rs 100,000 (roughly USD $1,500).

The iMobile SmartKeys solution was developed by one of the winners of the ICICI Appathon, the largest mobile app development challenge in India, which was organized and hosted by ICICI Bank. It took the bank less than 90 days to commercialize the idea and take it from concept to rollout.

If you want to drill down into the technical specifics of iMobile SmartKeys a little deeper, you can check out the FAQ page ICICI Bank created.

ICICI Bank is widely regarded as one of the most innovative financial institutions anywhere in the world when it comes to mobile banking. It was the first bank to launch a mobile banking application in India, iMobile, back in 2008. ICICI also has an ‘iBizz’ mobile banking application specifically for SMEs and corporate customers.

ICICI has unveiled no fewer than 165 different mobile banking features — the most of any bank in India. ICICI allows users of its mobile app to make tax payments, ensure the integrity of their paper check payments, buy train tickets, invest in mutual funds and purchase car insurance. Indeed there is very little a user of ICICI’s iMobile app can’t do, which (of course) should be the ultimate goal for every financial institution in the Digital Age.

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