The financial services industry was one of the first to adopt mobile phones in large numbers. We all remember images of yuppies in braces carrying around what was in reality a mobile brick.
And in the beginning, size did not matter, but we were a fickle bunch and our eyes strayed. Smaller became beautiful. Then we wanted cameras, email and games, and devices started to grow again. As screens got bigger, businesses started to think about mobile banking – imagine trying to do that on an old Nokia with a one inch screen.
And now our phone is our constant companion – helping us in many areas of our life and business. So what is next in terms of technology and applications, and how will this impact the financial services industry?
While the first few weeks of January have seen large falls in the stock markets, think back 10 years: Blackberry had a market capitalisation of more than $50bn (£35bn) and Nokia, as a whole, was valued at $150bn.
Skip forward to the present and Blackberry (which has just – at best – 1 per cent of the current handset market) has waved a white flag and launched an android phone, and the glory days of global domination by Nokia (now gobbled up by Microsoft) are fading fast. Both brands are now almost bywords for nostalgia. Blackberry still tries to cling on to the fact that it is the most secure device, and regularly promotes pictures of political leaders such as Angela Merkel and Barack Obama using them. But the days when it was the de facto device of the financial industry are long gone.
What happened? The iPhone. Mike Lazaridis, who was then co-chief execuive officer of Research in Motion, was asked in 2007 about the threat from Apple’s phone. His reaction was: “How much presence does Apple have in business? It’s vanishingly small,” and he was dismissive of the idea that anyone would want a phone without a keyboard. That just shows how wrong you can be.
Today, the mobile phone giants are Apple and Samsung. But will their reign be any longer than the previous champions? It is worth noting that in 2014, the fastest sales growth was for Windows phones.
From its acquisitions, it is clear that Microsoft is focusing on the telecoms market – their stable now includes Skype as well as Nokia – and they are in the position to challenge in both the fixed and mobile arenas. Samsung also occupies some of that space, but it is an area that Apple is weak in. Could this be a chink in its armour?
Each player has its own battalion of boffins searching for the next game-changing innovation. But what will that be?
We have all heard of there being complaints of recent iPhone models bending in pockets, while being carried around, but what if that was turned into a positive? Would you be interested in a device that you could roll up? Apple has already filed patents. It is great for doing business on the move and, with the end of EU roaming costs in 2017, it is a potential boon for anyone working across the continent, although if the UK leaves the EU that might remove that option.