The Rise of Mobile Apps in Finances

The Rise of Mobile Apps is an ongoing series by Raelyn Thompson, focused on the integration of mobile technology into our everyday lives. Read Part One and Part Two here.

Education certainly is not the only field directly affected by application software technology. Businesses can incorporate applications directly into day-to-day business, from managing finances and providing news to contacting investors. Apps can also provide revenue for businesses. Apps have proven essential to any kind of event planning, from using hotel apps to make reservations to looking to apps like Yelp for finding just the right florist or restaurant on the go. Apps are applicable to many personal utilities, from banking to gaming; and the future of apps affects much more than just individuals.

With the recession, many customers have been watching their personal finances more closely, which has led to a rise in the popularity of mobile banking. TowerGroup, a financial research company, projects that users of mobile banking will increase from 10 million active users this year to more than 53 million by 2013. The ease of checking your account balances anywhere and anytime certainly helps the jump, and the industry is rapidly evolving to meet the ever-growing needs of the user.

Google Wallet, an Android smartphone app, essentially strives to replace the age-old physical wallet with your phone. It stores virtual versions of a customer’s existing plastic cards on their phone. The pitch to consumers is convenience: it's an app that promises to help save time and, through loyalty rewards and digital coupons, money. A consumer can store and sync up redeemable Google discount offers inside the Wallet. There is a chip embedded in the phone that uses NFC technology, which allows for secure communication between devices at very short distances, which allows for the card information to be able to be read by the point-of-sale terminal. The customer simply pulls up the app, enters a four-digit pin and then places the phone on the point-of-sale terminal, which recognizes the digital wallet as the same sort of information as a physical credit card.

Google Wallet is the first to take its digital wallet to market, but competition is certainly looming. Other companies, such as American Express and Visa, are also planning to launch their own versions of a digital wallet. These companies are also working with AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile, which have formed Isis, a joint venture that is developing a digital wallet for smart phones. Apple has also been rumored to be developing a virtual wallet and has included the NFC technology capable of using a virtual wallet in their newest iPhone.

Through Google Wallet, companies can also add rewards programs. This is the first step in ridding the consumer's physical wallet of all of those customer rewards cards and streamlining them into an organized virtual existence where they can never be destroyed in the washing machine or hidden by all the other cards you might be holding onto.

The main trouble with virtual wallet services is the struggle against the generations of physical forms of payment. Essentially, paying by cell phone may be the future, but do not give up on plastic cards or physical wallets just yet. Society as a whole has been conditioned through generations of physical transactions. We're accustomed to exchanging one physical object for another, such as trading cash for goods or presenting a credit card to make a purchase. To transform the norms of currency into a nebulous, nearly shapeless entity is the make-or-break point for the virtual wallet ventures. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Check back soon for the next installment on the app's role in mobile gaming!