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Mobile Payments: Transient Technology for Technophiles or Wave of the Future?

With smartphones accounting for more than half of the mobile phones in the United States (in March 2012 smartphones were in use by 50.4 percent of consumers in the country), the rapidly expanding market is bringing in new technical possibilities and business opportunities.

The adoption rate for smartphones is higher than that of any other previous technology, except for televisions and the new success of tablet computers. This increase of smartphone users has triggered the continuous development of new applications and embedded phone features that allow users to do even with their mobile devices. It’s not just about managing appointments, listening to music, playing games or taking pictures anymore. Now a smartphone user is able to order food, try on clothes, stay in touch with friends, find and review bars and restaurants on the go, post to social media and even track miles run and calories burned on their last run.  Smartphones are now important pillars supporting our daily lives.

One of the latest, but also most controversial trends in the world of smartphones is the development of mobile payments. In other words, using ones phone to pay for goods and services instead of using cash, checks, or a credit card. It typically only requires the touch of the back of the phone to a designated spot in the shop or the use of a special card reader and the payment is processed.

The biggest advantage for shoppers is its practicality. Indeed, the virtual transactions put an end to the necessity of carrying cash, checks or even credit cards. Only the smartphone people have with them anyway is required. The disadvantage is also the fact that only the mobile device will be used as the payment method, problematic if the cell phone happens to be lost or stolen.

Mobile payment technology is already well-spread in India, but still faces consumer reluctance in Europe and in the U.S. It will take time to develop the first partnerships between telecommunications operators and payment processing groups (like Master Card and VISA) as well as educate customers on this new way of shopping – which will also require the purchase of new cell phone models.

Will it be the new disruptive innovation of the year in 2012? Are the days of traditional payment methods numbered?  Only time will tell, but if they are convenient and safe, we should expect to see much wider use in the near future.

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