Cell phones are now delivering videos, music, pictures, emails, and other data that was thought to be impossible ten years ago. These advanced features are not going away anytime soon. In 2004, 6% of all cell phone consumers used data features, and in 2005 nearly 16% of all users did. 2006 saw 45% of individuals ages 18-26 use advanced data features and 27% of those ages 27-40.
To add fuel to the fire, wireless carriers continue to invest in their networks to increase data transmission speeds. Consequently, new services such as Verizon VCast and Sprint Power Vision have been rolled out. These services are fast enough to stream video and music without interruption, or enable access to the Internet at about the same speed as at home or in the office. At the end of 2005, 15% of the U.S. had access to these high-speed networks, and 80% will have by the end of 2006.
Mobile services in the finance category are starting to take hold in the market. Some are as basic as Yahoo! Pay Direct (unfortunately it went out of business in November) that allows users to send and receive money from their mobile phone, and others are more sophisticated like Ameritrade’s mobile service that enables users to place trades, view balances and positions, get quotes, or connect to a representative.
The new capabilities of wireless technologies have led to an onslaught of other consumer facing mobile start-ups. To take an example, a service named Sticky Shadows, allows owners of location-aware cell phones to leave virtual sticky notes for the next person to “pick-up”. It's called "geo-tagging". Essentially, by walking into areas where a note has been posted, a location enabled cell phone handset will automatically be notified of the message that had been left. However, Sticky Shadows could be very threatening if the wrong type of notes were left at the local banking center or in the loans office.
The convenience and time saving benefits of wireless financial services are huge. The challenge of these mobile applications is how to turn these possibilities into a reality for consumers.