Is the iPhone going to revolutionize banking?

Ron Shevlin wrote a post this morning about why the iPhone isn’t going to revolutionize banking. His point is that there may be some evolution, but not revolution. My counterpoint is that when talking about degrees by which these things happen, it can be difficult to draw a line between these two. And waiting for that line to become bright is a risk that some might not want to take.

Ron thinks that there are too many people rushing in to these revolutionary technologies. I actually think it’s the opposite: there are far more people in the financial world who are taking a wait and see attitude than those who are claiming there is a revolution and jumping in feet first. It’s just that the feet-first types are the vocal ones who make the noise and get the attention. Because, really, who wants to admit they are going to take a wait-and-see approach? I give props to Charles Bruen for taking a hard-line wait-and-see stance on mobile banking.

But let me back up to Ron’s bigger issue; what is revolutionary and what is evolutionary? While it is indeed hard to determine what is truly “disruptive” and “revolutionary” (yes, these words are used too often) at the time they are occurring, nevertheless, some of these things DO take root and create significant change. As one example, in 2005, Facebook had but one million users. Hardly a disruptive revolution, right? But it had momentum and was growing fast, and now has 80 million users. That would make Facebook the fifteenth largest country in the world if it were a country. Three years ago, most people had barely heard of it. Today it’s a part of the culture. When exactly did it go from a blip on the radar screen to mainstream?

I believe the same is true for mobile banking, P2P lending, and PFMs. Yes, these revolutions are not happening violently because banking isn’t sexy. But if there were any way I could get off the sidelines and do something with these technologies, I would be in the game. I give huge props to Gene Blishen for being light years ahead of the curve on what mobile banking can be and do.

Dan Dickinson, in a response to Ron’s post, asks if there is anyone on twitter who does NOT use an iPhone, and states that he will never buy anything made by Apple. As far as the game-changing nature of the iPhone and mobile connectedness, this misses the point.

The point is this: for those of us who were tethered to a desk in order to use our PCs and access the net, laptops were a revolution. Now you could go anywhere with a laptop, be connected/do your work, but you could only connect to the entire internet when you found wifi, which was rare or expensive and often both. With an iPhone (and to some degree any smart phone) you can connect to the net ANYWHERE you have a cell phone connection, which these days seems like just about anywhere. That’s powerful, game changing stuff, and also not as clunky and bulky as a laptop.

But again, here’s the real reason why people LOVE their iPhones, and why it’s indeed a paradigm-shifting, disruptive, revolution (he he!): Because it’s so FREAKING PERSONAL. iPhone owners feel that it’s “my” internet on their iPhones, it’s MY connection to MY friends and MY music and MY phone and MY pictures and MY contacts and MY address book and MY calendar and MY videos and MY games and MY apps! I can customize it with pictures of MY friends and MY kids on MY home screen, and take a photo ANYWHERE I am and instantly email it to my friends. Try wrestling away any device (no matter whether its an iPhone or something else) that has so much personalization and connection… it can’t be done. And to the extent that BlackBerries and Treos do this too, well, yes, that’s why their users love them just as much as us Appleheads love our iPhones.


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9 Responses to “Is the iPhone going to revolutionize banking?”

  1. Dan Says:


    All those reasons you list why people love their iPhones — friends, music, phone, pictures, contacts, and so on — don’t really seem equivalent to “banking” to me. I have no doubt whatsoever that people will love their iPhones like a day off, but I don’t think the love of mobile banking will be a driver for iPhone adoption.

    To me, mobile banking and the iPhone have very little to do with each other. People like yourself, Jim Breune and the other usual bank/CU blogging suspects — who’re very close to both the financial industry AND emerging technology — will be all over it, but my feeling is that you’re a small group…heck, call yourselves ‘elite’ if you like! Not to say that group won’t grow; I’m sure it will. But dabbling in emerging technology is difficult and expensive for big banks and, as Ron pointed out in his post, they’ll want to be a little sure of the ROI on this, especially where many of them got burned by disappointing mobile banking adoption eight years ago.

    By the way, one small clarification: the question about “if there is anyone on twitter who does NOT use an iPhone” was Ron’s, not mine. I was just quoting it in the comment so I could display my personal dislike for iProducts!

  2. Ron Shevlin Says:

    So, after reading your post, I don’t get it. Granted, it took Brad Garland’s comment to get me to clarify exactly what I meant by revolution vs. evolution.
    But what you have you done? Completely skirted the issue. And that’s why I find it hard to take your argument seriously. This is what I was trying to comment on in my “three most overused words” post. When people indiscriminately cry “Revolution!” “Disruptive!” “Innovative!” without clarifying and defining why — that is, with no logical, rational explanation or reason — it becomes a weak argument. And worse, it starts to take on a “boy who cries wolf” kind of feel to it.

    And btw, I’m presumably one of the 80 million users of Facebook, because I have a login ID and password. But funny, if you were to ask me if I were a Facebook user, I’d say no. How many of me do you think there are? I’d venture to guess somewhere in 60 million range. (Forrester may have some #s on that — I’ll ask somebody over there if they know.)

    Again, I’m not quite sure where you’re going with the Facebook argument. Online communities have been around forever. Facebook is capitalizing on the network effort and beginning to achieve a positive, growth spiral. Is that revolution?

  3. Dan Says:

    Technology revolution: when my father starts using it.

  4. Credit Union Warrior Says:

    An iPhone has a full web browser, right? Couldn’t users simply access their account at an FI’s pre-iPhone website? To me, there isn’t one significant technology that the iPhone 3G presents that will revolutionize anything in the financial services world.

    Don’t get me wrong, I want an iPhone (I want one very badly). I want it as a mobile communications and entertainment gadget, though. I would argue I’m part of the vast majority with that feeling. There will have to be some significant additions in future iterations of the iPhone for me to consider using one for anything more than that.

    Maybe once I buy one I will better understand the iPhone’s potential to be a game-changer. Right now, though, I’m not sold on it. I honestly hope, however Morriss, that I’m wrong and you’re right.

  5. George Pasley Says:

    I talked about this on my blog earlier in the year. I don’t think the iPhone will revolutionize mobile banking. A majority of bank customers with mobile phones don’t have a data plan. The primary reason is the cost. The iPhone certainly isn’t helping since the cost of the data plan went up since last year.

    As far as I know, no mobile banking vendor has released an iPhone compatible application yet. The web client ones don’t really count since most of the web client vendors use a special style sheet.

    In fact, I’m pretty sure that most of the customers that access mobile banking on a cell phone use a Blackberry. I know that’s the case with our bank.

  6. Tony Mannor Says:

    I think the revolution argument regarding the iPhone is that there is broader adaption. More people are putting their steamy little hands on it which will promote mobile apps of all flavors. Like for iPhone or something where you can see all you money stuff instantly on your iPhone (I dont know if they are doing this since I don’t use and iPhone – I made it up as a fer-instance).

    Personally, I won’t buy an iPhone. Not because of the product. I am a geek, thereby covet all things geeky. I have an ache in my gut, but it is not for the iPhone…. oh no my friend. It is for the Android.

    Yes, all those PC users out there with their dangling USB cables in hand ready to hack the hell out of an open source mobile platform are waiting.

    I think open source mobile platform and phones will be to mobile computing what the VCR was to entertainment. This is when you will see where this media goes. iPhone has a stranglehold on this platform with AT&T. When it is democratized by opening it up and people start buying phones separate from providers will you see better phones, better services and better mobile applications. Right now there isnt a lot of competition. Hell, the US doesnt even have the best phones or software. The Euro and Japanese phones make our stuff look like swap meet knockoffs.

    And in conclusion, in the sentiments of my friend Billy – think of it like this, People are like puppies. They, in general, dont think long term. They like bright and flashy things that make them feel good right now now. The media industry is like a big shiny, delicious, meaty, bone. Except that a puppy, is a dog, but the industry my friends, that is a revolution!

    Ok, that last part was a long drive for a movie quote huh? 😉

  7. Robbie Wright Says:

    I’m with Dan, when my dad starts using it…

  8. Jim Says:

    turn that snow background off man that’s annoying.

  9. seven dollars Says:

    seven dollars

    Is the iPhone going to revolutionize banking? | World 2.0 Adventure

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