As mobile phone users upgrade to the latest touch-screen devices on fast networks they conduct more complex business from their phones.
At the recent NACHA payments conference in Seattle, eCom Advisors said its survey of bank customers showed that touch-screen phones like the iPhone and the BlackBerry Storm led users to move from online banking to mobile banking. eCom predicts that the combination of touch-screen smartphones and faster networks will lead to widespread adoption of mobile banking in five years, much faster than ATM or online banking adoption, in part because the new phones make the extension of online banking to mobile banking simple.
Most bankers don't have a clue, according to Fred Brothers, a founder of the consulting group. "We have told bankers they are a device change away from a massive change in behavior," he said. "Half the phones now in the stores are fast touch-screen models."
Individuals are moving to the new phones fast. Apple is selling 8 million to 9 million iPhones per quarter around the world and consumers aren't waiting 24 months to upgrade; they are now moving up in 12 or 18 months, often with the encouragement of their cell phone network providers who keep them under contract by enticing them with the latest smartphones.
"Our message to the industry -- 2010 is the year when you need to get moving," said Paul McAdams, a partner in eCom.
High-end phones are also impacting business users. Todd Christy, president and CTO of Pyxis Mobile, which provides enterprise platforms for mobile users, said the iPhone has sharply accelerated business users' adoptions of high-end smartphones.
"We believe touch and multiple touch phones with their intuitive interaction deliver opportunities for smartphones to deliver a range of applications such as consultative selling -- agents and advisers who are interacting with clients can access client and product information immediately," said Christy.
The company has long supported BlackBerry devices and now supports iPhones, with Android and iPad support coming soon. Although Apple doesn't promote its products to the enterprise very much, the iPhone has been adopted by institutions which have ordered hundreds, occasionally even thousands, of the phones.
"The willingness of large corporations to allow iPhones to connect to their networks is increasing and we are responding to that," he said, expressing a little surprise that after all the years of listening to companies worry about security of mobile devices they are now permitting iPhones to connect. Apple has developed some industrial-strength security for the phone such as content encryption, the ability to wipe the device clean if it is lost and central control of passwords, he added.
Pyxis started in financial services, but now about 25 percent of its business comes from other industries including manufacturing and high tech, said Christy.
"The enterprise demand for mobility is increasing, along with a demand for enterprise-grade mobile applications which connect to the big-iron systems the companies have," he said. Pyxis offers features such as controlling the amount of data that can be downloaded to a device, or allowing it to be viewed but not stored. "If you decide client data is so sensitive you don't want it cached, you can limit it to on-screen."
Business users were generally expected to tolerate whatever interface an application delivered, but now pressure from the consumer side has led to an upgrade in design even on core business systems.
User interfaces are being upgraded under pressure from the iPhone, said Christy, even when it comes to mundane applications like CRM and inventory management.
"The expectation is a rich interface that is more immersive and interactive, along with fast response times," he said. "The iPhone has raised the bar for us." For the company's Release 7.0 in March, Pyxis hired a graphic designer and created a rich interface. At a recent RIM show in Florida, he was bemused to see that BlackBerry was following a similar path, creating better interfaces than it had offered in the past.
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