Alexa. Cortana. Siri. Google Now. The Linglong Dingdong (no, really). And now your banking app. Santander, like many others, seems convinced that the future is voice activated, and that typing is an old-fashioned interaction for luddites.
I have my own reasons to be unsure of this trend, but I'm not alone. According to a survey last year, 70% of iPhone owners use Siri fairly regularly, but only a tiny 3% will speak to the digital assistant in public. Talking to an inanimate object in public comes with a certain level of discomfort, similar to they way Google Glass and drones haven't been particularly welcome additions to public places.
The question is if this discomfort will fade or if we'll eventually be as happy talking to our devices as the crew of the Enterprise were asking the ship computer for information. Gizmodo's irreverent etiquette guide suggests it's only acceptable to talk to devices when you're alone, but others suggest that we'll see a tipping point and it will be as normal - if as annoying - as talking on the phone in public.
For the moment, the added privacy and security concerns that come with banking - plus the worry that instructions will be misheard - means it's probably going to remain a cute novelty. Star Trek may have depicted a time when voice control would be perfectly natural - but banks would be wise to remember that it also depicted a post-scarcity society that had abandoned money - and presumably banking apps - altogether.
Santander is trialling a new solution on its iOS SmartBank app, enabling customers to use their voice to make payments, check their account balance and report a lost bank card. It is the first High Street bank to offer such service. The new technology follows the launch of Santander’s ‘voice assistant banking’ last year, with the enhanced functionality now understanding commands such as “pay Julia £30 tomorrow”, “how much did I spend on holiday?”, and “what is my balance?”.