Released late last week, I wanted to take some time and have a closer look at PayPal's application for Windows Phone. It opens strongly, with some introductory screens promising the app is convenient, secure, trusted, and that the PayPal team will be there for you 24/7 to help you. Is it? Let's find out.
Version Reviewed: 188.8.131.52
The PayPal app does make use of the Windows Phone UI design language extensively, which gives a professional feel for what is little more than two main screens - one which details your account, and a second that allows you to send or request money (both of which carefully avoid any language that would make you think that PayPal is in any way a bank).
The account screen allows you to click through to get all the details on your recent transactions, so you can keep an eye on what's happening with your account. For people using PayPal extensively (such as the Ebay sellers) this is going to be a very important screen. For me it's nice to confirm the memberships and the occasional online purchases I have made with PayPal.
PayPal has a lot of experience integrating with other websites and services, so it should be no real surprise that sending and requesting money is smooth and hassle free.
Sending money, as with everything in PayPal, is driven by an email address, in this case the address of the person or business you are sending money to. Pop that in the first dialog box, the amount to send, and an optional message, and it's all done. It's a shame that the searching is only on your Windows Phone address book, and not your recent payments via PayPal, which would have been a useful addition.
The 'request money' option again integrates with your address book, searching as you type the start of a name or an email address. Pop in the amount and a short message, and a suitable email will be sent by PayPal with all the correct links and details for the receiver to make the payment if that's what they want to do.
These screens are all nice and clear, but I'm not sold on the subtle canvas-style background., For a start, bright backgrounds are going to bump up the battery consumption on many AMOLED-screened phones, and I don't want my applications to replicate a piece of paper, they're on a smartphone so go all smartphone-y. You know what I want? Light text on dark background, respecting the theme I've chosen for my Windows Phone.
And that does sum up my feel of the application. It does what I need it to do, but very slightly misses the mark of being a smartphone app.
I suppose my big worry over PayPal is that it seems a little bit gung-ho with your security. While you do have the option of altering your PIN number from inside the application, you'll still need to use your regular login details when you open the app. But interestingly (perhaps worryingly) when you exit and reopen the application within a short time-frame, you're not asked for your password again. Leave it a little bit longer and you will be asked for your password when you login.
The latter is good practice, but I'd rather not take any chances around my money. I'd like to see a setting that would force the application to ask for credentials whenever it was brought to the foreground. At the very least letting me know how long the time-out period is would be and what precautions the app is taking to keep my money secure. It's all very well having precautions, but it would be nice to know what they are.
As a replacement for using the web browser, the PayPal app is a pretty good choice, but I want my mobile apps to be more than a nifty UI layer over the web. I want them to take account of the unique nature of a smartphone, to think about the positives and the negatives that this implies.
The application does bring in geo-location, allowing the app to work alongside PayPal's 'Here' service where available (which apparently is not in Edinburgh). This will let you know where vendors using the 'Here' service are close by, so you can use PayPal to complete a purchase. This is a start on leveraging the mobile platform, and I hope to see more features like this in later versions. NFC is coming in windows Phone 8, will the PayPal application accomodate that? What about in the upcoming Wallet hub?
Right now I'd rate PayPal as a 'competent' application. It does handle your PayPal needs, but without any sort of panache or style. There's a lot of promise here, and now the basics are covered I'd like to see the application stretch itself out and take advantage of not being tied to a desktop, but being genuinely mobile.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at