Staff Writer AccountingWEB
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FreeAgent rebuilds Android mobile app

Following a recent upgrade of its iOS platform, FreeAgent has recently completed the mobile operating system circuit by updating its Android mobile app.

20th Feb 2020
Staff Writer AccountingWEB
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FreeAgents Android platform

Ever since the upgrade of its iOS mobile app, cloud-based accounting platform FreeAgent has promised users that a new, improved Android version would be quick to follow. Last week saw FreeAgent deliver on its promise as the new mobile app went live.

Despite having versions of the app for both iOS and Android, FreeAgent’s user base has been skewed towards an iOS user base since iPhones began dominating the phone market space. “It was important to get both versions on the market, but we went with the iOS one first (which was launched in October 2019) because we have more customers who use iOS,” said FreeAgent chief product officer Roan Lavery.

Building the Android app the iOS’s likeness, both apps have now been rebuilt using mobile application-specific technology, which will be the foundation and catalyst for its future product development.

To upgrade, or not to upgrade

Lavery told AccountingWEB that the new Android mobile app had been “completely rebuilt from the ground up using fully native technology.” The previous app service had been built using a ‘hybrid solution’ – a blend of native and web solutions, which Lavery described as “a good way at the time because it was the quickest way we could get to market with our apps.” 

According to Lavery, FreeAgent has “grown on mobile team significantly in the last year” and now has dedicated iOS and Android teams. As a result, FreeAgent has been in a position to rebuild the original hybrid applications using native technologies, which means the apps are built specifically for Android and iOS without the use of web app technology. 

An advantage of using custom technology is that it offers a “faster, more responsive and polished” service, said Lavery. “It also acts a better springboard for adding new functionality in the future, [which] we're starting to start to look at.” 

New app, new features

According to Lavery, “the killer feature that people use mobile apps for is expense capture.” 

The reason for this is that “people prefer to do the really quick two-minute tasks that they can quickly get out of the way on [their] mobiles,” said Lavery. Conversely, desktops are used for more intricate tasks, such as payroll or complicated invoices.

Following this, next feature FreeAgent is developing for its Android and iOS applications is to streamline the process of expense capture on the mobile. “Mobile is perfect for things like a quick bank reconciliation or capturing an expense receipt, so one of our real strategies with the mobile apps this year is to lean into that mobile-specific functionality,” explained Lavery. 

Upcoming from FreeAgent’s mobile apps

Modern mobiles also benefit from portable technology, ie portable cameras and location tracking, which Lavery confirmed would be significant in FreeAgent mobile apps development this year. “We'll try and keep iOS and Android parity, so whenever we release a feature for one, we release them both, as we always want to be sure that they're kept in step.”

Lavery stated that, in the next couple of months, FreeAgent would release a feature allowing users to capture images via mobile to categorise on the desktop as basic receipt capture features. “That's one of the big things. People want to want to take a photograph of the receipt but they don't necessarily want to go through the whole creation of an expense process in FreeAgent right there and then, so they can just save it and come back to it later on.” 

“Once we've done that, it then opens the door for other things like OCR and automation of categorisation.” Lavery also hinted that FreeAgent was working on the AI capability that was being used in other parts of the product, and would likely be revealed later on in the year. 

“Another feature we are releasing is better integration with Open Banking. Currently, with Open Banking, customers have to re-consent bank feeds every 90 days. It's a bit of a hassle for some people, so we're looking to be able to re-consent workflow for Open Bank feeds via mobile.”

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