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Byl Cameron
Byl Cameron
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The Rise of Phablets in FinTech

The growing dominance of mobile technology is the most significant tech trend of the last 10 years.

The mobile devices people around the world now have in their pockets are a coalescence of many predecessor devices. They have a computing capability that would have required a full desktop only a few years ago. The shift toward distributed computing has been evolving for years, even decades, but its increasingly rapid evolution over the last five years rivals anything we have ever seen in the technology domain.

The latest trend in mobile devices relates to the size of the devices themselves. Whereas the first smartphones were small and the first tablets were large, the size of these two devices is now drifting toward each other. Tablets are getting smaller, while smartphones are getting larger. The most recent data shows that tablets and smartphones are actually moving into something called the “phablet,” a device that incorporates designs aspects and size from both tablets and smartphones, with a diagonal screen size between five and seven inches.

When looking at the major smartphone and tablet providers in the US market, the trend line of the average tablet size is decreasing over time, while the average smartphone size is increasing. In fact, the largest smartphone among major smartphone vendors, the Samsung Mega (6.3”), and the smallest tablet among major tablet vendors, the Amazon Kindle (7”), are only different by 0.7”. But it’s not just the size of these devices that’s converging; it’s their functionality as well. A particularly compelling development is the emergence of the Samsung Tab, a 7” tablet that comes with the ability to make phone calls. If the current trend line continues, it’s reasonable to assume that the distinction between tablets and smartphones will quickly and completely disappear.

What does phone size have to do with banking?
Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group’s preliminary research suggests that many online banking users have a “three-device life.” The three-device life comprises a laptop from their employer, a tablet that straddles personal and professional use, and a smartphone that's primarily for personal use, but is often also used for work email and phone calls. With the rise of the phablet, it is conceivable that many people may move to a “two-device life.” The two-device life might consist of a laptop and a phablet, or a small tablet using a physical keyboard (eliminating the laptop).

The rise of the phablet and the move to a two-device life stands to impact FinTech and FIs in three important ways:

Simplification from reduced platforms – Many financial institutions maintain multiple platforms in support of different mobile device sizes. Public web, secure web, tablet apps, smartphone apps, and mobile web comprise the core offerings of most FIs that have developed a contemporary offering. The rise of the phablet would inevitably lead to a reduction of these platforms, the most significant of which could be the merging of the tablet and smartphone apps. The resulting reduction in cost to FIs would be significant, from reduced planning, development, testing, implementation support, and other aspects of technology delivery.

Increased customer features and sales opportunities – An additional benefit would be the ability to deliver an expanded set of features and functions on a phablet, as opposed to a smartphone, due to the expanded real estate of the device. Certain features are not installed on current smartphone apps due to the smaller screens, especially on the iPhone. When transactions like a mortgage application can feasibly be processed on a phablet, customer satisfaction will likely increase due to the greater flexibility offered to customers. There would also be the opportunity for increased rewards and promotions, giving the consumer on-the-spot decision capabilities.

Enhanced customer satisfaction – Having access to enhanced features and functionality via phablets will inevitably lead to greater customer satisfaction. Plus buying and maintaining fewer devices will save consumers time and money -- and who doesn’t like that?

The trend toward phablets and a simplified device scenario in the lives of US consumers is real -- and it is happening fast. According to mobile analyst firm Canalys, growth rate of phablets shipped globally has tripled in the last year. The financial services industry will be greatly impacted, and if your organization doesn’t have a device convergence strategy in place already, you need to get moving. The coming months will prove very telling on how far-reaching this revolution will be, and you don’t want to be left behind.

Byl Cameron is the Digital Practice Lead for Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group. A technology veteran of 20 years and a FinTech junkie for 17, his primary focus has been on digital development, mobile design, and e-commerce behind digital technology in the financial ... View Full Bio

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Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
9/4/2014 | 3:44:12 PM
Re: Mobile evolution
All good points - I remember plenty of people who had that "chunk of brick" made by Nokia. You're right that ultimately there needs to be a balance between screen size and usability, and I think many would agree that so long as a phone fits in a pocket or small purse, then it's a good size. Like Bryan, I do miss the size/user interface of the Blackberry, but something tells me the trend isn't going to move back in that direction. 
Byurcan
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Byurcan,
User Rank: Author
9/4/2014 | 9:36:24 AM
Re: Mobile evolution
Good points and thanks for your feedback. I still find that typing with a touchscreen is easy, but I guess I'm in the minority on that one. I still feel my old Blackberry had the best design and user inteface, but I'm obviously in the minority on that one too...
Chektee
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Chektee,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/3/2014 | 9:40:44 PM
Re: Mobile evolution
Let's not confuse device size with screen-size and ultimately usability. In the heydays of Nokia when they were really adventurous with their phone form-factor designs (remember the lipstick size cellphone?), they miniturized it because all people do with their phone is to call and text. But when it comes to "usability", the chunk of brick aka Nokia Communicator was a huge hit. 

The introduction of iPhone taught everyone that typing with touchscreen is easy as ABC and also introduced the concept of apps on phones to the masses (fine palm OS started it but impact was limited to only the techie early adopters). 

Samsung clearly identified that users are clearly ready for the screen real-estate v phone size trade off (gaming, video streaming and internet surfing being the 3 main usage) and one-up Apple with increasingly larger and larger screens andd voila! The phablet is born!

My take is that mobility is key so as long a it fits into a pants pocket or a clutch, it is the idea size. So that is where the human factor comes into play. Look at the laptops, it went big (17-18") and small to (10") screens but it settled between 11" (macbook air) to 15" with the most popular being either 14 or 15". Granted that pricing plays a huge part, the screen size to human productivity fit is probably still the best at that range given the current state of human interface design. 
Byurcan
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Byurcan,
User Rank: Author
9/3/2014 | 8:55:38 AM
Re: Mobile evolution
Me neither! But yes, it is funny that it seemed not to long ago it looked like the trend was just for smaller and smaller devices and now it's reversing somewhat. Might we see the resurgence of laptops soon? 
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
9/2/2014 | 4:31:45 PM
Mobile evolution
It's funny that not too long ago, we were seeing increasingly smaller mobile phones on the market, now they're bigger than ever. The rise of the phablet does present plenty of benefits for consumers, as the larger screen lends itself to greater productivity, but this also makes me wonder if phones are getting too big for practical use. I can't imagine making a phone call on a 7" tablet!
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