06
Jul
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Yodlee (Wikipedia), the pioneer of personal financial management software - the one that used to power Mint.com and still powers hundreds of large banking sites - released a long-awaited Android app for its own MoneyCenter service today. I've been a Yodlee user for many years, and when I saw it released to the Market a few hours ago, I didn't hesitate a moment and immediately bought it.

If you haven't heard about personal financial management, and Yodlee in particular, it is an online aggregator of financial accounts that uses your logins to banks, credit cards, rewards, airlines, mortgages, and so on, and combines them all into one easy to read, search, and navigate location on the web that automatically updates behind the scenes. For people with many accounts, it's simply a life saver (of course, the downside is you're leaving it all to a single password, so make your Yodlee credentials are unique and very secure).

While the service is being offered for free, the Android app costs $3.99, which is a small price to pay for such convenience. The app offers access to accounts, balances, transaction histories, investments, charts, expense analysis, budget by category, and bills. What else could I be asking for, right? Pure heaven! And yet I refunded the MoneyCenter after using it for about 10 minutes. Pure heaven not so much.

I suspected things were going to go south from the very first screen - the login page. Instead of creating a native login mechanism, Yodlee opted in to kick you to their standard multi-step login in an embedded webview. After entering the username, the answer to the secret question, checking the checkbox to remember me, and entering my password, I was finally in. A one-time inconvenience that one could understand, right? Not so - leave the app (even without logging out), and you have to go through the whole thing all over again, including the username, the secret question, and the dreaded checkbox (to be clear, I'm not complaining about entering my password). Sigh.

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Once inside the app, everything feels extremely crude and half-assed. More than that even - sure, there are lists of transactions and search, but the UI is so bad that I might as well be using the main site (and even then the legacy version, as the new one is done in pure Flash and is just horrid). There is also no way to trigger a refresh of the data on the server side or do much of anything at all outside of adding an account to your favorites and giving it a nickname. The Settings dialog only lets you select a Start page and leaves much to be desired (for starters, how about a setting to remember my username and device, and only prompt me for a password before I pull all my remaining hair out?).

In the end, the Yodlee MoneyCenter is a glorified spreadsheet of your account info, with an awfully unpolished UI and a login process so cumbersome that I don't see myself ever opening up the app again. And that's unfortunate - I really wanted to like it because Yodlee is one of my top 10 favorite online services.

Back to the drawing board, guys. Hint: start by hiring another developer (I've got $10 saying they outsourced it).

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Artem Russakovskii
Artem is a die-hard Android fan, passionate tech blogger, obsessive-compulsive editor, bug hunting programmer, and the founder of Android Police.
Most of the time, you will find Artem either hacking away at code or thinking of the next 15 blog posts.

  • Steve

    Nearly as bad as CoPilot Live Premium then? BTF and took so long to download the maps (1+hour) that it was impossible to test it and then request a refund. Also, the makers of it won't answer any support e-mails. Avoid!

  • sgtguthrie

    If you're a veteran, you can't go wrong with USAA. Their app is awesome, you can even deposit checks from your phone!

    Of course, it's only good if you bank with them... Lol. But like I said, if you're an honorably discharged vet, check them out! You'll never want to use another bank!!!

    • lee

      +1 to USAA, it also lets you aggregate other banks and credit cards.

  • http://www.yodlee.com Jordan Reed

    I'm the product manager at Yodlee for the FinApp Platform and help with the mobile product management and wanted to give some clarifications on how things are now and where they are going with the Mobile MoneyCenter.

    1) Instead of creating a native login mechanism, Yodlee opted in to kick you to their standard multi-step login in an embedded webview.

    MoneyCenter Mobile is build on the Yodlee FinApp platform and uses OAuth to allow any FinApp that is hosted outside of Yodlee MoneyCenter to authenticate in. This is the same method that mobile apps connect to services like Netflix, LinkedIn, etc. The basic login flow for Yodlee is the same whether you are using MoneyCenter Mobile, H&R Block File My Taxes or other external FinApp links back into your Yodlee account.

    The flow detects you are in the mobile experience and resize to fit better. We will continue to update these screens to improve the experience.

    2) Leave the app (even without logging out), and you have to go through the whole thing all over again, including the username, the secret question, and the dreaded checkbox (to be clear, I'm not complaining about entering my password).

    If you leave the app without logging out and return to the app while it was running in the background, you have 15m before you will be prompted to log in again--timeout is not instant. If you kill the app, your phone closes it in the background, or you allow the mobile session to timeout you will have to log back in.

    3) There is also no way to trigger a refresh of the data on the server side.

    When you first login on the device, it triggers a refresh of all your accounts--removing the need to have a button to trigger it. For some users the "Refresh at Login" feature is not working and I think you would be part of that segment. It is a server-side issue and will be addressed soon without the need to download a new version.

    4) How about a setting to remember my username and device, and only prompt me for a password before I pull all my remaining hair out?

    We agree. The login pages need to be balance between security and convenience. The first round leans much more towards security than convenience and because of this the login flow runs as an incognito version of Chrome does not store anything on the device at all. Obviously the right solution is to let the user choose if they want to have this information stored and soon we'll have "Remember Me" for both the username and the security question - so you can opt to have either of those remembered on the device and not need to type them in again.

    5) [There's no way to] do much of anything at all outside of adding an account to your favorites and giving it a nickname.

    The first launch is geared towards seeing your information while on the go, with some limited updates like changing transaction categories and nicknames and setting budget goals.

    We're interested in getting any more feedback users on what they want to go on the go in the next iteration of the app.

    You can e-mail or we'll be taking feed back in the mobile forum at http://forum.yodlee.com

  • http://www.workingsandbox.com Shannon Wagner

    Hi Jordan,

    Thank you for the response. I also bought the app, without too much thought since I was extremely impressed with the web service. Unfortunately, it took me about 20 minutes of fumbling with the login process and a few other features to realize that I wanted a refund. My opinion is that this app is so buggy that it should not be sold - I think it would be fine to keep it as a free download until some very basic improvements are made. It needs beta testing.

    I don't mean to be overly critical, but my initial user experience really was that bad - a stark contrast to my initial user experience with the web service.

    The problem with the login process is that it requires the user to type a user name, a password, and a security challenge answer every time the application is started. This does not improve security in any significant way - my Android phone is at relatively low risk of being stolen, and even if it were stolen I wouldn't care if someone were able to view some of my transactions and balances, and all I would have to do to prevent them is to change my Yodlee password anyway. But by requiring these three items to be typed (thumbed) in each time, you are encouraging users to change their passwords and security challenge answers to ones which are super-simple to type quickly, and obviously this reduces the security of their online web account with Yodlee.

    All the typing at initial login would be okay if the "remember me" check box worked. But it doesn't, at least not during the 10 minutes I tried to use it. So even if I try to save my state, the application fails to do what it says it will.

    Beyond the unreasonably cumbersome login, the app is still not very mobile-friendly. Yes, it updates accounts at login, which is nice, but it does this in the main UI thread so the app can't be used during the update. Switching to the sub-apps also causes the app to hang during more updates. And my guess is that the app would completely bomb-out if I tried to use it during my subway commute without any connectivity, although I have not tested this. In contrast, every other app I have installed on my Android works fine (in a limited way) when disconnected.

    I sent a message via Google Checkout to request a refund of the $3.99 - not because I care so much about losing the money, but because I honestly feel cheated. I don't buy many apps for Android, but I do buy some. None of them are perfect, but none of them have bugs as significant as Yodlee's, in my opinion.

    Any help you can provide would be much appreciated!

  • http://www.yodlee.com Jordan Reed

    Yodlee has released a bugfix as MoneyCenter 1.0.1 to address these two:

    3) There is also no way to trigger a refresh of the data on the server side.

    Refresh All is now properly triggering for all users when they log in. So there is no need to provide an additional refresh option.

    4) How about a setting to remember my username and device, and only prompt me for a password before I pull all my remaining hair out?

    Remember my device is working for the security questions, so you will not need to enter them in on future logins.

    Yodlee is also adding "Remember me" for the username and this should be completed in mid-to-late August.

    ..Jordan, Yodlee Product Management

  • http://www.workingsandbox.com Shannon Wagner

    Hi Jordan,

    I am hoping that you will consider securing the mobile app (after initial authentication) using only a PIN. Of course, this would require the user's credentials to be encrypted and stored locally.

    Right now, I only have one mobile app which requires a password every time I start it - it is an online banking app. But the security need for an online banking app is significantly higher than it is for an account aggregation app like Yodlee, since the online banking app has "write" access to accounts, whereas Yodlee's mobile app only allows "read" access. And the extra trouble to enter a complex password in my online banking app is reasonable for mobile use, since I don't need to use that app very often - most of the time I can use the aggregator (Yodlee or Mint) instead.

    My opinion is that by requiring a password instead of a simpler PIN (or even giving the user a choice of whether to secure the app or rely on the phone's primary PIN, as Mint does), you are actually reducing security. The reason I believe that is that I think you are encouraging users to pick a password which will be easy to type in frequently on a phone - i.e., it's unlikely to contain the mix of symbols, case, and digits that make for a good password. The result is that their online web account may be less secure since they may opt for the more convenient password on the mobile device.

    Hope this makes sense. I know you folks are working hard on this development - just wanted to let you know some of the areas where I believe the design can be improved.

  • Mike

    For an app this buggy, $4 is absurd. I currently use Mint which is a free service with a free app.

    The Yodlee app ($4) has 2.5 stars and tons of bad feedback
    The Mint app (free) has 4 stars and gets great reviews

    Take the hint... Fix it and lower the price to Free to go along with the website.

    I currently use Mint (sort of) but there are too many issue I have so I'm thinking about changing to Yodlee if those same issues aren't as prevalent there. But I won't be using the app since it's $4 and seems to suck pretty bad.

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