In the not-so-distant future, if we havenít been destroyed by solar flares or global warming or peak oil or simply swallowed up by a hole in the earth, your telephone will become your wallet. It was just 120-something years ago that Alexander Graham Bell called his assistant Watson over a rudimentary telephone. Now we expect our phones to be able to pay for goods that Alexander Graham Bell could not have imagined: iPads, Slurpees, Spanx, etc. But this road to complete smartphone domination isnít evenly paved, as we learned this week, if itís paved at all.
Google Wallet, which was supposed to be revolutionary, was apparently putting up disappointing numbers, leading Google to reconsider the productís marketing strategy. Google Wallet has not been as widely adopted as Google would like it to be, so theyíre considering creating better incentives for mobile carriers to participate. As it stands, Verizon has locked Google Wallet out of its network due to security concerns. Perhaps coincidentally Verizon, along with AT&T and T-Mobile, is working on rolling out its own mobile wallet, called ISIS. Google is entertaining the idea of sharing revenue with carriers that agree to carry its app. Currently itís only available on one Sprint phone, which is not quite enough to scale in any meaningful way.
Googleís other plan for expansion is to push retailers to upgrade their point-of-sale terminals to be NFC-compliant, thereby creating demand for the technology. Time will tell whether these tactics work. If they donít work, Google Wallet might go the way of Google Wave.
But if Google Wallet adoption is low among the tech cognoscenti, that might not be a problem for mobile banking in general. The Federal Reserve released a report that we took a look at this week, which showed, counter to expectations, mobile banking is quite popular among the underbanked. Mobile banking provides all sorts of benefits for people who donít have a bank near them, or simply donít like dealing with banks. Due to these factors, and others, simple forms of mobile banking ó text message alerts and mobile account transfers, for instance ó are more popular among the underbanked than the overall population. Itís an enabling technology for them. For us, these services seem lame compared to something flashy, like Google Wallet.
Finally, perhaps the glitziest of all the tech companies had a brush with the banking world this week when a marketing firm discovered that people would probably like it it if Apple opened a bank. It was pure speculation, of course, and it will never happen. That said, the poll revealed interesting attitudes we have towards banks and tech companies. A full 43 percent of Apple customers said they would make Apple their primary bank. Overall, however, just 1 in 10 respondents said they would consider banking with Apple. That Apple has large hordes of fanboys who would probably let their offspring be raised by Apple products is no surprise, but it is fascinating that perhaps 10 percent of our population would trust the tech firm with their money. Theyíre a tech company, after all.
But thatís the way things are going, or at least itís where tech firms and banks want things to go. By better integrating your banking experience with gadgetry, banks can save untold amounts in labor and real estate costs. If big banks donít manage to tear themselves apart soon, they might have Silicon Valley to thank ó not their buds on Wall Street, and definitely not Capitol Hill.
On an almost completely unrelated note, this weekend marks the release of the highly-anticipated tween thriller The Hunger Games ó youíve likely heard of it. Itís apparently a pretty brutal flick, so what better than to compare it to the banking industry. Thatís what we did, with intriguing results. Check it out.