I recently noticed a lot of mentions about Nokia coming through on Google Alerts, and following that I've found that I've been spending quite a bit of time trying to figure out what happened to them and where they're going. It wasn't that long ago that Nokia were the Coca-Cola of the phone industry - they were the first choice of almost everyone and that did what they were meant to do brilliantly. Then something changed. Now Nokia seem to have slid quite a bit and many of their advocats have jumped ship to Apple or LG, or anyone of a host of alternative mobile phone manufacturers.
Having said that, they may just be on the verge of something really cool.
Nokia has announced that it will enter the mobile banking market. Following Nokia's recent purchase of a stake in mobile payments company Obopay, the mobile giant have confirmed they are ready to launch Nokia Money. The new service will allows users to access their finances in a number of innovative and convenient ways, while on the go. This will range from the ability to pay for products to checking balances, all using their mobile phones. In addition, the service will inable customers to make money transfers just by using another person's mobile number.
Initially the service will rely on traditional banks to provide the interface for customers to deposit and withdraw actual money, however Nokia have confirmed plans to build a network of Nokia Money agents. These will essentailly become banks, allowing customers to deposit or withdraw cash directly from their Nokia accounts.
While this may seem like a move completely out of the blue by many people, mobile banking is a concept that is actually relatively old in terms of mobile communication. Following the boom of digital networks in the early 90's, many futurologists predicted that mobile banking would be common place by the end of the decade. While they may have been slightly off in their predictions, Nokia now predict that mobile payments are key to bringing accessable banking to hundreds of millions of people in urban and rural locations, who are restricted by current payment systems that necessitate credit facilities (especially in emerging economies). Nokia say this is the next big thing in the financial services industry.
Mary McDowell, Nokia executive, said: "In many countries, mobile phone ownership significantly exceeds bank account usage, suggesting that many mobile phone users have very limited or no access to basic financial services. With more than 4 billion mobile phone users and only 1.6 billion bank accounts, global demand for access to financial services presents a strong opportunity to combine mobile devices with simple but powerful financial services such as Nokia Money."
The service will be rolling out in Germany this month (September), with a full launch planned for 2010 (depending on operators and markets).