Steve Jobs revolutionized so many aspects of our lives. One often overlooked area: Our money.
Jobs fundamentally changed wired Americans’ relationship with their finances — from how and when we shop and bank to our awareness of our net worth.
When Apple (AAPL) launched the iPhone in 2007, people were already banking online — but the development of iPhone apps devoted to personal finance launched a rapid evolution in the way people handle their money. Want to deposit a check from your living room couch? There’s an app for that. Transfer funds, pay bills, balance your virtual checkbook? There’s an app for that too.
It’s easy to forget that these are all functions that, before the iPhone’s 2007 debut, were done almost entirely through brick-and-mortar branch banking. Recent research from the American Bankers Association showed that since 2009, online banking has become the preferred way to bank for customers doing their day-to-day interactions.
To be sure, the mobile banking revolution is only in its infancy. While 62% of those responding to the recent ABA survey say that they preferred to do their banking online, only 1% said mobile was their preferred way to bank. But since the beginning of this year, Capital One (COF) reports around 450% growth in the number of customers accessing their accounts online and with mobile apps such as those on iPhones and Android-powered smartphones.
“The iPhone and iPad have completely upended the balance of power in the world of personal finance,” says Brad Stroh, CEO of debt-management startup Bills.com. “Consumers now have access to real-time rates, account balances and budget spend at their fingertips — all on a device in their pocket.”
Yet on the flip side, the iPhone and iPad allow us to spend money anytime — and that can be devastating for anyone trying to rein in spending.
The Apple mobile devices have helped to create a new consumer ecosystem — helped along by the prevalence of debit and credit cards — of micro-payments. From buying a $9.99 ebook or a 99¢ song or game on iTunes, or a $2.99 grande Americano at Starbucks (SBUX), the number of such small electronic purchases is increasing.
But even as Americans spend money in increasingly snack-sized bites, the iPhone has helped create a gateway for monitoring spending and personal finances in small, daily chunks as well, rather those longer weekly or monthly account-keeping sessions of yesteryear.
“People are trying to keep up with the [increasing] velocity of money,” says Jaidev Shergill, CEO of the personal finance web site Bundle.com. He adds that that mapping spending habits, a task easily performed through GPS-enabled iPhones and smartphones, is adding another dimension to the way people use their money, and driving the growing trend for localized deal offers by businesses and services.
Ken Sun, who leads the mobile team for the personal budget app and website Mint.com, says the iPhone has changed people’s relationship with money for the better. “The human memory is faulty and now you have an impartial observer,” Sun says.