App review: Splitwise (2 stars)

App review: Splitwise (2 stars)

Pros: Digital IOU list to track split payments with housemates or friends; App calculates splitting payments automatically, so no more fumbling for your phone calculator at the end of a meal; If you are vigilant with updating the app, you will never lose track of who owes what. 

Cons: Doesn't have in-app payment functionality; Clunky user experience as you have to move between Splitwise and your banking app; Will only work if all your friends actively check the app; Different features between iOS and Android users.

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You're having a wonderful evening out with your friends and/or partner, enjoying the food, wine and company until the bill comes. Various coloured plastic cards are dropped onto the table. Everyone looks sheepishly at each other; "Let's split evenly", "You didn't have wine so you just pay for your meal", "I'm sorry but we are £10 short" might be heard. 

Similar conversations come up when house sharing and it can cause unnecessary friction in relationships.

Enter Splitwise, a new app to make these scenarios disappear or at least less painful. Its raison d'etre is to remove the hassle by tallying up how much each person owes. It reduces the possibility of losing track of expenses due to throwing away receipts or ghosting Whatsapp messages about payment, which can only be a positive thing when trying to budget and save.

You can create specific groups for different expenses - groceries, bills, rent, holiday - then add the relevant friends or housemates from your contact list. The app automatically calculates everyone's share dependent on the split ratio you set for the cost; split equally, split unequally, by percentages etc. You can even take a photo of the receipt to include in the group to be completely transparent. You can also send friendly reminders when you really need the debt to get paid.

On paper, this all sounds fantastic, however in practice I feel it falls short. There is no integration feature with banks, so you can't do in-app payments. This is very frustrating as the process of payment automatically becomes longer: 

  1. Enter amount spent on Splitwise and calculate split ratios between you and relevant friends

  2. Dashboard will automatically update so you can see what payments are due and when

  3. Go onto your banking app and pay back

  4. Update Splitwise to show you have settled up by entering in the amount you paid

Clearly, the fewer clicks it takes to complete a task, the better. For me, the app just becomes a dashboard for monitoring payments without having all of the streamlined or automated functionality that banking apps are trying to achieve.

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