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Friday, May 27, 2011

Mobile payments to come of age?

1.2_paymentIt’s been a while since I last blogged, partly due to a very hectic work schedule but mainly as I have seen very little to blog about. Had time permitted I may have rustled up a few words about Google’s Chromebooks which look very promising, but other than that I’ve seen or read about very little worthy of a blog entry for the last few months.  Even Gadget Show Live proved a little underwhelming in the way of anything new with a real wow factor.

I’ve had my HTC Desire for over a year now and in this time have seen nothing new or heard of any upcoming devices that would tempt me away. Everything phone coming to the market seems to offer little if any advantages over my Desire. My only gripe is it could do with a little more memory for storing apps as far too many don’t offer the option to install to SDCard.  The one thing that shows promise and would be likely to make me change my phone is NFC, Near Field Communication.

The idea of being able to use a mobile phone as a means to pay for goods is not new, I saw working prototypes of such technology from one phone manufacturer many years ago, while in the Far East they have been carrying out transactions in this way for a number of years.  In the western world however, the concept is still relatively new though this looks set to change over the next year or so. 

Orange were the first to get in on the act with their announcement of Quick Tap, a partnership with Barclaycard that uses a Samsung Tocco Lite with an NFC chip. On the surface the idea seems rather flawed. First you need a Barclaycard and rather than the card being charged when you use Quick Tap, you have to top up your Quick Tap account first with you card, hardly seamless technology.

Yesterday, Google announced Google Wallet which on the face of it looks a far more promising effort to use NFC as a means for payments.  Initially it too is limited to certain credit cards, but Google has promoted the openness of its system and how it hopes to bring on board more partners over time.  In an ideal world, users should be able to add any of their card details to their Google Wallet, regardless of card provider with the App then using the phones NFC chip for contactless payments directly from the card.  Hopefully both VISA and Mastercard will get on board and allow any of their cards, with any provider to work with Google Wallet or any similar system.  Roll out the technology to enough retailers to be able to accept such payments and then NFC will become a viable alternative payment option.

NFC isn’t going to become an overnight hit, its going to (initially at least) be a slow burner but provided networks, manufacturers and card providers don’t try to lock us in to their own unique solution it has the potential to explode and revolutionise the way to pay for certain goods.

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