Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Apple - changing my life, one device at a time …

One of the intriguing things I find with new Apple devices is how they change the way I use mobile devices. Until I start using a new device I can only guess at what some of my use cases will look like. When I received my original iPhone (the 3G, for business) I expected to use it in a similar way to my main handset, a Nokia E62. However the user interface, App Store and general ease of use meant I used my phone more and more and in ways that had been just too painful on the Nokia. For example, whilst there were plenty of S60 apps around, finding them and side-loading them from my PC was frustrating and predicated against the whole activity. 

I was initially sceptical about how useful I'd find an iPad but trying out a friend's iPad convinced me it would be transformational. When I started using one, the crossover occurred with both my MacBook Pro and my iPhone. I was doing similar things but in a more convenient and enjoyable way. Plus the iPad lent itself to new activities like reading books and watching TV shows which previously I hadn't bothered to do on mobile devices.

I recently won an iPod Touch, a device I wouldn't have considered buying because of the overlap with my iPhone 5. However it has proved surprisingly useful as a media device. I don't need many apps on it, leaving plenty of space for more music and video than I can fit on my iPhone.

The iPad Mini intrigues me because although it replicates the iPad in terms of functionality, the smaller screen size introduces another dimension. As an ereader the full size iPad is big and heavy. The iPad Mini is much more user friendly in this space. 
Travelling on the train also feels like an occasion when a smaller iPad would be more convenient. Will the lack of a Retina display be an issue here? Not sure, although the rationale for no Retina display in terms of performance improvements seems a reasonable trade-off. It remains to be seen whether the iPad Mini will outsell the iPad over time; when it gets a Retina display I think it will. I suspect the iPad Mini will prove transformational in use - and if I get one I'll let you know!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Telnames Mobile Website Builder

Telnames recently released a new iOS app to allow customers to buy, build and manage their telname .tel website. Whilst it's always been easy to do this via their website the app makes it even simpler, especially when you want to change contact details on the go.

A telname is a great way for small businesses and individuals to create a simple mobile friendly website with contact details and brief information about the business. Telnames summarises the functionality ...
Each telname has one page containing:
  • A short description including your logo or profile picture
  • Up to 20 pieces of contact information (including telephone numbers, email addresses, web links, and social media links)
  • A map and address location
  • An offer where you can describe your goods or services on promotion
  • An image gallery containing up to 5 photos
  • A video displayed on your page
  • A full business profile
  • An additional information section
  • A design wizard to personalize your background image for desktops, iPads and tablets

Have a look at a couple of telnames I've created - giraffeinascarf.tel and sevendotzero.tel

Friday, 16 November 2012

Is white label the future for the UK banking market?

Originally published on Total Payments.
Unlike other sectors of the financial services market, we rarely see new entrants in the UK banking market because the bar to entry is so high. Obtaining a new banking licence is a massive challenge (ask Metro Bank!) and developing the systems required to support a range of banking products takes a significant period of time (ask Tesco Bank about their yet to launch current account!).
The UK banking market needs more competition from providers who can deliver customer centric services in the way consumers want to consume them. This means products from people who understand consumers and who are not driven by protecting legacy products. So far new competition has been very limited; examples include Metro Bank who went down the banking licence route and Virgin Money who bought Church House Trust and then Northern Rock.
An interesting alternative is the model followed by Marks and Spencer who got to market very quickly by offering a M&S branded, HSBC backed, account. M&S Bank is part of HSBC but operates under the M&S brand, in M&S stores, thereby leveraging the brand values associated with M&S.
What the UK banking market needs is a white label enabler to help brands and new providers get to market quickly by providing the banking licence and banking systems that act as a barrier to new entrants. In the US, Bancorp Bank offers what they term ‘private label affinity partner programs’. New providers can offer their customers branded banking services that are actually provided by Bancorp Bank, i.e. deposits are held and protected under Bancorp Bank’s licence. M&S Bank benefited from the existing financial services relationship between HSBC and M&S, however there is no evidence that either HSBC or another bank will start actively marketing this wholesale business model.
A white label banking provider would enable both providers along the M&S Bank model and new providers who see smart, mobile device based services as the future of banking. In the US, Movenbank is bringing their unique customer proposition to market via this model. In the words of Brett King, Movenbank Founder and CEO, banking is no longer somewhere you go, but something you do. So which bank will go for first mover advantage in the UK? Anyone?

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

iZettle launches simple card payments in the UK

Yesterday iZettle formally launched in the UK with EE as their distribution partner. I've been using iZettle for the last six months for card payments and have been very impressed by the simple, customer centric way they have brought customer present card payments to individuals and small businesses. 
"iZettle is designed for small business and tradespeople such as plumbers, electricians, builders, taxi drivers, housekeepers or market stallholders. It is estimated that there may be more than three million people running businesses in the UK who would benefit from the flexibility iZettle offers, with two thirds (66%) of small firms currently owning a smartphone."
Historically, the cost of hardware, fixed monthly charges and the bar to signing a card acquirer agreement has put such facilities out of reach of individuals and many small businesses. iZettle has removed that barrier; signup via a simple online process, download a free app and purchase an inexpensive card reader that plugs into your iPhone, iPad or Android handset.
“The beauty of iZettle is that it’s simple to use, totally secure and takes seconds for a transaction,” said Jacob de Geer, CEO and co-founder of iZettle, which is used by more than 75,000 small businesses and individuals in six countries. “Whether you are a cabbie, florist, tradesperson or a courier, iZettle gives you the flexibility to operate in both cash and cards. The possibilities are endless because hundreds of thousands of small business can now take plastic. We are very excited about our full commercial launch in the UK and the positive results of our Beta test with 4,000 users over the past six months.”
My only issue with iZettle on the beta was the lack of Visa acceptance. I could accept MasterCard, American Express and Diners using chip and signature but Visa refused to allow iZettle to use either chip and signature or handset PIN entry. iZettle has now resolved this issue by using a different (mobile payments) process for Visa transactions that is kicked off by the insertion of a Visa card into the card reader. With almost 100% of the debit card market in the UK, the lack of Visa acceptance was always going to be a barrier to adoption, so the removal of this issue, albeit with a slightly more complicated user experience, is great news for both iZettle and their customers.

iZettle merchants are charged 2.75% of each transaction value with no monthly fees or contracts. The card readers are available for £20 from EE stores (you might remember them as Orange or T-Mobile stores!) and include a £20 voucher towards transaction fees.

It's early days but iZettle has the opportunity to totally change the face of customer present payments in the person to person and person to small business space in the UK. For the first time there is a sensibly priced, simple to use, fully functional, alternative to cheques and cash.

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