When Apple launched its iPhone in 2007, Bloomberg columnist Matthew Lynn pooh-poohed the device as a “luxury bauble that will appeal to a few gadget freaks.”
He (and others) predicted that Nokia and Motorola were secure in their cell phone dominance. Others were not so sanguine.
Chris De Salvo had been working on a secret Google project called Android since 2005, principally to compete with Microsoft. His reaction: “As a consumer I was blown away. I wanted one immediately. But as a Google engineer, I thought ‘We’re going to have to start over.’”
What did De Salvo see that Lynn did not? A new way of interacting with the world, including the banking world.
It’s not wholly fair to judge early iPhone doubters from the safe territory of 2015. But their mistakes are still instructive.
Lynn and others saw a phone with a music player and camera built in. But it quickly became so much more.
In terms of frequency, voice calls fall behind texting, emailing, and checking the Internet, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2015, the smartphone is less a phone and more a digital hub.
Today mobile’s importance is obvious. But now that many credit unions have launched their own mobile apps and installed remote deposit capture, we may be facing a new iPhone moment.
In Filene’s latest report, Trending: Credit Unions in 2025, we write that wearables, first in the form of watches and then in embedded chips in everyday apparel, will simultaneously make it easier to track our money and easier to spend it.
Today the Apple Watch is the most prominent example of a smartphone-tethered device that engages with embedded sensors and smart mapping out in the world. As chips, sensors, and batteries shrink, look for devices that may not even have a screen to help us save, spend or borrow.
Situationally aware banking apps will help members decide whether they can afford a certain new jacket, throttle spending until payday, or find a car loan that better matches their budget. They may include:
• Authentication ring. A 1995 patent that foresees a ring to authenticate ATM withdrawals was early to the party.
Today, a ring, watch, or plastic-embedded chip like that in commercially available cards such as Coin or Plastc, could be all you need to authenticate yourself to an ATM or payment reader.
There’s already talk of Apple authenticating you with your own pulse.
• Glance banking. Services like Digit use the already-available tech of SMS and plug it into a human interaction. Users get a daily message pushed to a watch or any other wearable with a simple “Balance Today/Balance Yesterday” alert.
Future iterations could include simple commands to transfer money or dispute a charge in the moment.
• Instant offers. In-the-moment coupons have been promising as long as mobile phones have had banking. But applications like Larky (a Filene partner) are building the ability to push location-aware offers to users as they walk, drive, or bike around town.
You might not get an offer buried inside an app until after your errands are done. But services that win your trust can buzz your wrist right in the mall with a discount coupon ready to go.
• Instant P2P. Nearly one-third (28%) of smartphone owners made a mobile payment in 2014, according to the Fed.
Person-to-person (P2P) payments are an important subset of that, easily transferable to a watch with services like Square Cash and Venmo.
The technology is already ahead of consumer adoption. Whether they beep, buzz, or glow somewhere on your body or in your clothes, each of these services is available today.
These examples don’t even include the science fiction (but very plausible) prospects of contact lens displays, skin-embedded chips, or ear-implanted cell phones.
Don’t get too comfortable with mobile banking—it’s just one more phase of the digital revolution.