Android App Review: Discovery Bank

A good friend of mine recently said to me:

“The measure of how good a smart phone is, is by how much less you tend to use it. This is because you accomplish your tasks so quickly you tend to put it down sooner”

Or something like that. But the message is the same and I think even though I didn’t put it as eloquently as he did, I view apps the same way. The less time I spend in something like a banking app trying to figure stuff out, the better because I get to to my business and log out when i’m done and I get to move on with my life.

For those of you that missed the memo, Discovery recently launched their banking offering and is the latest in the digital banking space within the South African market. Their unique value proposition is getting people to “Bank Healthier” by outlining some goals that people need to stick to in order to be in better financial standing.

After the Business Insider article spoke about the launch issues the app had, I looked at the event through the lens of a budding startup. “Yes there will be teething problems in the beginning. Yes not all features will be available at launch” etc.

About two months since launch (and two weeks since i’ve started transacting) I decided to share my most recent experience with the app.

There are a few things that stand out that I really would like to understand. I started with the process or “application flow” of wanting to pay my cousin who spotted me for a Uber ride earlier in the day. So our journey starts here (with some historical thoughts of the app in general).

So to start with, lets take a look at this screen:

Information Overload

This is the main dashboard screen with my account information filled with what card I have and my bank balance. This is perfect.

But then I have my active rewards which are from the vitality rewards section of the main Discovery app.

Why have this here? This bears absolutely no relevance to my day to day banking and as far as I understand it, is a Vitality feature, which is why it’s in the Vitality section of the main Discovery app. This makes even less sense when you discover that tapping on the active rewards takes you to the main Discovery app anyway where you can view your rewards. If the Vitality section reported your “Vitality Money” info if the feature is activated (which i think it does, mine isn’t active), then this would make sense. Further to this, the Android version has a bit of a lag when it loads this UI which leads me to think there wasn’t much of a performance test here.

Moving along, let’s get my cousin paid! I select Pay, then I am greeted with this screen:

My first thought here, is “Okay, let me simply search for the person I want to pay and select their name” without applying much thought. I selected his number from the list and I was greeted with the below warning:


Uh, okay? First off:

Why show me the contacts that are NOT a part of Discovery Pay? This is useless information. How does this enable me to pay the person I’m searching for? All I want to do is a once-off payment. If Discovery pay is some special type of payment system then why not have the two options under each other like cards and have that as some secondary option? That way I can select what I actually want to do.

Secondly, why does it look like I can only add a beneficiary before I can pay someone? Is once-off not an option with this bank?

“Fine” I say, “let’s just add him as a beneficiary before I can pay”. I tap the button and the below comes up:

“Ah finally!”, still confused by the experience so far, I proceed to enter my cousin’s details and when everything looks good, I head over to the confirmation screen by hitting “Next” to verify everything:

Finally found what I was looking for!

So at the end of the “Add beneficially section”, I finally find the golden “Pay Once” button. I’m still confused as to why I couldn’t access it any sooner and in a more straight forward manner.

This is a banking app. The whole process of paying someone should be beautifully quick and straight forward without much thought. The process of going through all this just to finally hit “pay once” at the end makes absolutely no sense to me and I spend much longer in the app trying to figure stuff out than I actually needed to.

Also, I am not sure if this is first iteration phase of the app but I found that it took a long time to load in some instances. For reference, I was connected to a 20mb/s fibre line so i’m not too sure why I even had to wait here.

Lastly, the back button doesn’t work a lot of the time, so the app forces you to use the navigation controls to get around. Why?

To finish off, the service itself is pretty great. The transactions are instantly recorded and you get notifications whenever a balance goes off your account so you know everything is good from the service front (as any bank should), but the app definitely needs some work. To this day I still rate Monzo as the best banking app I have ever used. Everything is just straight to the point. Locally, FNB is a very close second and after this experience i’m left wondering just how far Discovery is from achieving that goal.

It’s also really good to see the fact that they have decided to embrace app-based banking fully without the overhead of a website. This way the banking process from the app side can only get better as the attention is focused. This, coupled with their ability to learn about their clients better than a lot of other entities, enables for better personalised banking in future, especially from the Vitality side of things.

What would be great is a tech blog of some sorts with a road map of what the future plan is. This would definitely involve a lot more openness which I think not just techies but the general public who follow Discovery are really into.

While there is definitely room for improvement here, the app still works and I get to do everything I need to, done. I just hope in future versions they refine the process to make it much smoother.