There has been a lot of discussion in the business software market about the benefits of browser-based, responsive web (RWD) apps versus native Android and iOS apps. Even though there is evidence showing that more and more organisations are moving toward RWD for mobile software deployment, the debate continues as to which is better, just like Mac vs. Windows, Peyton vs. Tom and Pepsi vs. Coke.

We’re pretty confident that our mobile expense management solution offers a far superior user experience and is also much easier for organisations to manage. However, in the same way that some expense providers have rolled out a variety of tall stories about Chrome River and its capabilities, some of our competitors also like to paint our solution as being less effective for offline expense management than their native apps. To be frank, these claims can be charitably described as alternative facts.

To illustrate this, let’s consider a few common scenarios.

Scenario One – Adding Expenses on the Plane

The alternative fact: In-flight Wi-Fi, while common, isn’t yet ubiquitous, particularly on over-water flights. App-based providers claim that it’s impossible to enter expense items using Chrome River in this instance because you need to connect to the internet to use it. However, it’s possible to enter expenses into their app, which you can always access whether online or not. 

The reality: With Chrome River, you don’t need to be online to submit a receipt. You simply snap a photo of the receipt and send it to your expense account via your smartphone's email app. As soon as you’re on the ground and have an internet connection, your receipt is sent, and our powerful optical character recognition (OCR) capabilities will extract all the data and automatically create an expense line item for you, with expense type, vendor, date and amount already populated. By the time your plane reaches the gate, your expense will already be processed for you. With our Snap & Send technology, getting expenses into your claim needs almost no additional steps, so you can kick back knowing it’s all taken care of.

With our competitor’s solutions, while you can take a photo of your receipt and load it into the app, because the OCR extraction is done on the server (meaning you need to connect to the internet for it to work), you’re stuck with a “dumb” photo of the receipt and nothing else. If you actually want to get the expense line item data into the system, you need to type it out manually on your smartphone. Multiply that by 20 or so receipts, and while your Chrome River-using seat-mate is catching up on a movie and relaxing with a cocktail, you’ll still be fiddling away with your expense items.

Oh, and the kicker? Even when you’ve done all this, you still need to connect to the internet to sync your offline app for it to get the data into the system.

Related: Myth vs. Reality in Expense Management Solutions

Scenario Two – Approving Expenses Without Mobile Connectivity  

The alternative fact: Although most users simply submit their own expenses, line managers need to approve their team’s expenses. Even though you’re on the road, your team still expects prompt approval, so they can be reimbursed in a timely manner. Some of our competitors will say that if you’re a Chrome River user in a wireless dead zone, there’s no way that you can access these approvals, because you can’t get online.

The reality: As soon as one of your team members submits their expense claim, you get an automated email from Chrome River. Not one that just tells you to log on to the system to approve it, but one that also contains details of every line item, complete with vendor, date, time and expense category. To approve it (or return it), you simply click the “approve” or “return” buttons on the email, and you’re done. Again, as soon as you’re back in a coverage zone, the email sends, and the expenses move along in the approval process.

If you need to approve via their native app, you first have to hope that your app synced before you went offline, so that the approval details can be viewed. If not, it’s a non-starter. If you do have your team’s expense approval info loaded into your app, you approve it and, just like with Chrome River, the approval notification will go as soon as you’re back on a network.

Related: Why Mobility is a Critical Consideration for Your Expense Management Strategy

Scenario Three: Avoiding Expensive Data Roaming Charges

The alternative fact: Overseas data roaming can be expensive, so many companies that provide mobile devices to employees try to limit the amount of data used while overseas. Some competitors say that Chrome River uses lots more data compared to a native app, because it needs to load up web pages each time. It’s therefore much more expensive to use on roaming networks.

The reality: Chrome River users will note that the experience our mobile web app provides is indistinguishable from that of a native app. You click an icon on your smartphone’s screen to access it, and it looks and feels just like an app (except that with Chrome River, you get the full functionality on your mobile device, not just a subset of features).

It’s also very light on the amount of data it uses, as a result of its single page application design, which means that instead of loading a whole new page every time expense data is entered, most of the processing is done within the browser window itself, resulting in just a few bytes of data being transmitted over the internet. It may sound complicated, but our engineers have it all figured out, and it means that you don’t need to worry about a huge roaming bill when you get home.

What does this all mean?

The upshot of all this is that when our competitors say we’re not set up to work offline, they may as well be telling you that everyone preferred New Coke. In fact, our back-end technology means that entering and approving expenses offline is even easier with Chrome River’s solution than their native apps. And most importantly, whichever way you go about it, your information will be processed in the system just as quickly. In addition, these apps may even pose a security risk to your organisation.  An “offline” app is a security risk due to the cached data stored on the device. Credit cards, account information, vendor relationship, all data residing offline, can be a potential security threat if the device is accessed by an unauthorised individual, lost or stolen.

Next time you hear some of these alternative facts being used, you won’t need to check with Snopes to debunk them. Just head to Chrome River to see what modern, mobile expense management can really do for your team.


Our choice of Chrome River EXPENSE was made in part due to the very user-friendly interface, easy configurability, and the clear commitment to impactful customer service – all aspects in which Chrome River was the clear winner. While Chrome River is not as large as some of the other vendors we considered, we found that to be a benefit and our due diligence showed that it could support us as well as any large players in the space, along with a personalized level of customer care. Sally Abella, Director of Corporate Travel Harman International
We are excited to be able to enforce much more stringent compliance to our expense guidelines and significantly enhance our expense reporting and analytics. By automating these processes, we will be able to free up AP time formerly spent on manual administrative tasks, and enhance the role by being much more strategic. Ben Zastrow Zelle
10 Considerations for Selecting a Global Expense Solution

10 Considerations for Selecting a Global Expense Solution

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