Sumit Kumar, a Pune-based software consultant, has been investing in the markets ever since he started working. While Gen Y sat with magnifying glasses and fine newsprint to track their investments and graduated to the television and Internet only later, Kumar has started keeping all information in his pocket. He uses his cellphone to do that.
“Earlier, I would surf the Internet for market data. I still do, but within a month or two I also started relying on my cellphone.” Kumar has downloaded a mobile application from Snaptu, an app developer, on his Nokia smartphone.
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Mobile applications or apps, as they are popularly called, are what the smartphone-wielding Gen X is getting hooked to. A report by CyberMedia Research shows that nearly 12 million smartphones are expected to be sold in India in 2011—a near 100% growth in sales compared with 2010.
What are mobile apps
Simply put, mobile apps are software similar to those you download on your laptop. The most common ones you may have come across include those that banks or brokers offer to facilitate mobile banking and trading.
There are apps to track expenses, calculate tax liability or to set reminders for routine payments. For instance, an app called 1Password, which can be used on iPhone, allows users to store personal details, bank details, passwords and other information on their phone. The app is password protected; so you just need to remember one password to have all relevant passwords and information handy.
Similarly, Ovi Store, meant for Nokia smartphones, has an app called Trackeverycoin that will help you track all your expenses. You can also use apps to track stock markets, buy and sell stocks, get real-time quotes, apart from tracking other personal finance news.
Who can use them
You cannot access all mobile apps through all mobile sets. Currently, Android-based phones, iPhones, Blackberry phones and some other smartphones support popular apps.
Several other cellphones also support apps but it is good to ensure that your cellphone is MIDP 2-compliant, a framework on which Java application is written. “This will ensure that your phone will be able to support 128-bit encryption that is currently the standard for online transaction security as well,” says Gowri Mukherjee, head (digital business), Citibank India.
How to get them
Mobile apps are available on various websites, including Snaptu.com, Market.android.com or app stores of telecom service providers such as Airtel and Aircel, and iStore and Ovi Store among others.
Before allowing the download, most sellers would ask you to register your cellphone, agree to the terms and conditions (please read them carefully before agreeing) and make the payment. However some apps come free of cost.
If you wish to download an application from your bank or broker to begin mobile banking or trading, download the app from their website. In some cases, you may have to email the service provider, which would send a link. Says A. Balasubramaniam, CEO, Birla Sun Life Asset Management Co. Ltd, “We offer a free app to our customers. Through this platform, customers can add more units, start new systematic investment plans and check net asset values through their folio number.”
Availability is likely to improve in the near future. “Currently, we are in discussion with some leading handset makers to offer our CitiMobile app at their stores,” says Mukherjee.
Watch out for
These apps sure provide convenience, but then you need to be cautious about security threats. If you have been using the Internet for financial transactions, you may be practising such caution already. Says Mukherjee, “The early adopters of mobile apps have typically been those who took to Internet banking and e-commerce early and the basic principles of ensuring security in both are quite alike.” Nevertheless, here’s what you should be cautious about.
To start with, if you use your cellphone for secure transactions, keep it locked at all times. Never share master passwords of these apps.
Download applications from reputed and secure sellers. Mukherjee adds, “Like on the Internet, phishing attacks through mobile applications are possible, so make sure you check for basics such as language and spellings used in the applications. Also, the source from where the application is downloaded and the application developer’s credentials must be checked for authenticity”
If your cellphone supports anti-virus, install it and use a two-factor authentication, wherever possible. Generally, you would be required to key in two-three passwords before executing a deal. While the first password will be your regular mobile password, the other passwords include digital and trading passwords. Balasubramaniam adds, “The interface will ask for your confirmation more than once before you execute a deal.”
The biggest threat is a stolen or lost cellphone. If your application only acts as an access point and doesn’t store data on the cellphone, then it remains intact even if your cellphone is stolen or lost. In case of applications based on your cellphone, have a back-up. Ensure all data on your cellphone is password protected.
Remember that if you upgrade an existing app, earlier data stored on it will be lost if it does not use a remote server.
The bad news is there aren’t enough laws to protect users. Says Pavan Duggal, a Delhi-based cyber law expert, “Currently, there are no legal provisions. However, there are provisions in the Amended Information Technology Act which makes app makers and telecom companies liable to pay up to Rs 5 crore to the user in case customer data is misused. Mobile app makers should be careful to prevent exposure to potential criminal consequences as well , under the Indian cyber law.”
Cellphone is the next big medium after the Internet and having apps on your phone would just make your money life simpler. With lives becoming squeezed for time, you need fast, convenient and secure access to your financial information.
APPS ON YOUR PHONE
Android-based phone users:
Synchronize your phone with an email address, then visit https://market.android.com/apps/. Look for finance on the left-hand bar and browse through the various finance apps available.
iPhone users: Download apps through iTunes. Create an account on iTunes; you will need your credit card number to do that. However, you will be charged only for paid apps; there are free apps available as well.
BlackBerry users: Go to http://appworld.blackberry.com to download apps. You need to create an account, configure your handset and agree to the terms and conditions before downloading.
Nokia smartphone users: Log on to http://store.ovi.com and register your phone to start downloading apps. You will need to give your credit card number if you select a paid app.