The smartphone is a ubiquitous piece of technology, in the pockets of practically every Australian and represents a systemic shift in the way we engage with the world. According to recent data, more than 9 in 10 Australians accessed the internet from a mobile device in the first half of 2021 alone.
The smartphone charge was, of course, initially led by the announcement of the first iPhone in 2007. While the technology existed, and other providers were working on their own iterations of a touch-screen device with computational capabilities, Apple was the first to reach the market – and did so with serious innovation.
This innovation has continued for 16 years, as smartphones have gotten smarter and faster; the iPhone 14 has just been released, a far cry from its predecessor in terms of power and utility. The ways in which our lives have changed as a result are widespread and immeasurable, but an often-unsung corner of this seismic shift relates to finance. The finance industry is changed forever – but why? And how is the iPhone partially responsible?
The Fintech revolution
Financial technology, or fintech, describes the various technological innovations that surround the handling of wealth. Fintech found its feet in the 1990s, some decades after the first integration of digital technology into the management of money in large-scale internal banking systems.
Products were now being developed in a rapidly growing industry, that enabled businesses and banks to regulate their finances entirely digitally – and to do so over a young internet, growing in terms of scope and capability. The next great change, though, would come with the proliferation of portable computers in the form of smartphones.
The fintech industry expanded yet further, as fintech disruptors were quicker to new technologies and markets than conventional banks. Digital-only mobile banking apps provided real alternatives to brick-and-mortar branches, while investment organizations created retail trading platforms that removed barriers of entry to stock and forex markets. This enabled new forex traders to trade currency wherever they chose – and without the need to retain the services of expensive brick-and-mortar brokers.
iPhone & iPad
Of course, central to this contemporary explosion in access to financial technology is the iPhone (and the iPad). Before the iPhone’s arrival in 2007, phones were somewhat limited in their capabilities. Even though breakthrough models such as the Blackberry provided as-yet-unseen benefits to users, the iPhone democratized these benefits with sleek and user-friendly UI. The smartphone was born as an intuitive device and one that could do practically anything.
The rest, as they say, was history. Today the smartphone market is a fertile one, with robust competition from numerous brands besides Apple. Together, though, they constitute a new era of accessibility and equity for users around the world. People can access and handle their own finances from within the palm of their hand, giving them more freedom than ever before to engage with international markets.