A number of technology experts have claimed 2013 as ‘the year of mobile'. What they really mean is that we are at an inflection point in how people use computers. As the number of mobile devices available on the market increases and diversifies, research agencies such as comScore in London have suggested that we have now crossed into a ‘Brave New Digital World' of near-constant interconnectedness.
In its report entitled “2013 UK Digital Future in Focus”, comScore noted that during 2012, smartphone ownership outsold desktop computers for the first time. Last year, 31.7 million (64 per cent) of the U.K. population owned a smartphone and six million owned a tablet, meanwhile in the U.S., 125 million individuals owned a smartphone and 50 million owned a tablet. A trend replicated globally, measurement organization Nielsen also saw growth last year with smartphone ownership representing the majority of handsets in Asia Pacific, 72 per cent of the population in Singapore owning a smartphone and tablet sales doubling in South East Asia.
The penetration of these devices into our everyday lives is having repercussions and rapidly changing our consumer behaviour. New platforms are springing up to offer products and services via mobile devices, freeing us from the constraints of the desktop. Not to be left behind, the financial services industry is adapting to allow us to conduct more of our financial business online.
Here is what I believe are the top five mobile finance trends that will continue to gain global traction in 2013:
Mobile contactless payments
The concept of contactless payments and using your smartphone as a mobile wallet is nothing new, but only in the past year have consumers and merchants begun to adopt the technology. Banks are now pushing customers to download their latest mobile app that offers NFC-based payments (caveat: it’s only available on Google’s latest Android phones and at merchants who support it). The innovators in mobile payment processing, such as PayPal and Square, are now being challenged on all fronts by wireless carriers, banks, and other start-ups to grab a piece of that transaction pie. As a result, merchants and customers now have multiple options and new technologies to consider. This year will see further adoption and the beginnings of a push toward a standard for retail payments.
Single view of your finances
Money management apps such as Mint, Pageonce, and PocketMoney allow users to track their personal finances anytime, anywhere. These apps provide a dashboard view of all financial stats in one place, and are displayed through charts, graphs, and message alerts to make it easy to track your spending, bill payments and budget issues, as well as monitor your investment goals.
Historically, travel abroad meant a degree of confusion about the fairness of prices listed in an unfamiliar currency. Today, you can simply pull out your phone and do quick sanity checks using a mobile currency converter app to convert prices to your home currency before you buy something.
Investing in the social media era
Mobile technology and social media go hand-in-hand. Crowd-sourced sharing has put more power in the hands of the masses. When it comes to opinions on the market and insights about investment opportunities, social media has become a viable channel for exchanging information and following experts to learn from them. StockTwits, for example, is a Twitter-inspired financial communications platform where investors can follow traders and markets that interest them while getting a personalized stream of news, charts, and ideas. Social trading takes it one step further with companies like Currensee and Covestor enabling users to copy the strategies of their favourite traders.
Mobile trading on a global scale
Foreign exchange trading moved online about 15 years ago, with the advent of the web, and has been on a desktop growth spurt since the early 2000s. Now, brokers are improving their trading platforms to bring the desktop trading experience to mobile devices through forex trading apps. The most innovative apps allow users to track real-time market movements, set price alerts and notifications, monitor news, and analyze technical charts while on the go. OANDA has seen strong and steady growth in customer mobile use since launching the company’s first mobile trading platform in 2007. As of January 2013, 30 per cent of our client logins were made via mobile devices, a 40 per cent increase on the previous year.
These five trends will gather further momentum as faster connection speeds are rolled out globally. In 2012, 4G connectivity was established in Asia and the U.S.; this year it is being rolled out across Europe, creating a more robust mobile experience for users in these regions.
According to comScore, 37 per cent of time spent online in 2012 occurred on mobile devices, with the remaining 63 per cent of activity taking place on desktop computers. Yet with the emergence of ‘phablet’ devices (midsized tablets and smartphones with combined functionality), this trend is expected to reverse during 2013, with two-thirds of online time likely to take place on mobile devices.
The second half of 2013 will see iOS and Android continue to innovate in an attempt to fend off competition from BlackBerry and Microsoft. These companies are both being aggressive in their bids to win back market share as they attempt to capitalize on advances in technology with their new platforms.
The biggest challenge for app developers in the latter half of this year will be trying to stay on top of these emerging trends and new devices. As the mobile landscape continues to evolve, those building the software will need to ensure they stay relevant to customer demand and meet drastically changing consumer behaviour.
What mobile finance trends do you think will become commonplace this year?