Smart phones continue to make their mark

Mobile technology offers a growing number of services and the trend will continue.

Slovaks install various apps in their smartphones. Slovaks install various apps in their smartphones. (Source: Jana Liptáková)

MUCH has changed since their arrival to the Slovak market in the late 1990s – mobile phones have now become a personal diary, camera, flashlight and more.

“Today, a smartphone is more of a computer; it is about social services, instant messages, browsing the web and sending emails. And this trend is going to develop further,” says Ondrej Macko from the IT website touchIT.

Last year, the Ericsson Mobility Report predicted that in 2015 the number of mobile phones will exceed the number of people on Earth. Martin Mosný, director for strategy and development at Swan, a telecom operator agrees.

“Today’s smartphones are computers that we carry in our pockets,” Mosný told The Slovak Spectator.

Most people use their mobile phone for social networks, instant messaging, web browsing, listed Macko. Slovaks are more likely to install applications into their mobile phones than the neighbouring Czechs, and this will likely spur an increase of services such as mobile banking and mobile payments.

Online services

Most of the mobile phones users in Slovakia have direct access to the latest technologies.

“Smartphones take up 80 percent of all sales and we expect the number to grow with the arrival of 4G technology,” said Slovak Telekom spokesman Milan Korec.

Mobile operators view the functions of the mobiles differently.

“Being a mobile operator is mainly about offering voice services,” said O2 spokeswoman Martina Jamrichová. While she admitted that there is an increase in mobile data usage, it is still unlikely to ever fully replace a fixed connection.

“In the future, the data services that today constitute only additional services will become more important for customers,” said Jamrichová.

While the basic applications, like ATM locators or Viamo – an application that enables direct debit payments via mobile phones – work on almost all new smartphones, more complex features have specific requirements. The tipping point is a stable internet connection and fast data transfers that does not slow down when more customers log on.

“At the moment, 4G internet that enables people to watch live TV or listen to music via mobile phone is spreading in Slovakia,” Macko said. “Therefore it matters whether there will be any limitations to this fast internet connection.”

In the past, multitasking mobile phones were reserved only for the corporate class and high-earners. Not any more.

“Almost all currently available smartphones above €300 are compatible with the latest trends,” said Macko, specifying that the main requirement is Android 4.4 or iOS operating systems and a 3G connection. It is ideal if phones have 2GB RAM for smooth performance.

Also the NFC data transfer technology is a necessary prerequisite. It consumes less energy and needs less time for pairing than Bluetooth.

Money and health

The recent introduction of mobile banking and cash withdrawals from the ATMs via a mobile phone is an indication of the increased role smartphones are set to play in our personal lives.

“Slovakia is one of the first countries to start using mobile phones to manage ATMs,” Roman Janota, the director of the banking system division at the software company Softec, told The Slovak Spectator.

Most experts expect a growth trend.

“The majority of people are interested in their instant account balance,” said Richard Walitza, vice-president for mobile payments and innovations at MasterCard Europe. “Applications enable them to have an overview of their real time transactions.”

A MasterPass now allows clients to pay for goods using their mobile phone or other device. At the moment, MasterPass is accepted at 150,000 locations around the world.

Tatra Banka offers its own application for mobiles and tablets. It includes a spending report where you can customise your accounts and pay with one click and navigation to the nearest branch or ATM.

“VISA Europe expects that in a few years, up to 50 percent of payments will be handled via mobile phones,” Marcel Gajdoš, the company’s regional director, told The Slovak Spectator.

VÚB bank, on the other hand, does not expect such a boom in mobile banking.

“The number of people that use mobile banking is increasing but still, they are just an addition to the traditional internet banking,” VÚB spokeswoman Alena Walterová said.

VÚB offers a basic application to support its mobile banking.

Popular applications go well beyond banking. Jamrichová from O2 mentioned that many people seek high-resolution cameras and even front cameras – so-called “selfie friendly” functions. Many people like when their phones come with built-in applications for Facebook or other social networks, she said.

Other apps are used to monitor health, even how many hours the mobile’s owner sleeps at night. In the future, Walitza forecasts increased utilisation of touch ID technologies and biometric data to facilitate log-in.

“The number of users of iPhone devices or higher versions of Android is increasing,” said Korec of Slovak Telekom. “Mobile data are being made available to larger numbers of customers of various age categories. In the past two years we experienced expansion of the customers using their first smartphone and making contact with mobile data and we believe that this trend will continue.”

However, increased personalisation also brings increased exposure to online crime. For that reason the providers of services put online security as one of their top priorities. Although the companies offer several layers of data protection, the protection depends on the approach of each particular user. Macko attributes the problems with security to the human factor: easy-to-figure-out passwords, using public Wi-Fi to connect to internet services and lost mobile phones that are an easy target for data abuse.

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