The co-founder of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, is behind Square which was announced this week as a new way of paying by credit or debit card with your phone. What is it? Well it's (surprisingly) a square device that you or the merchant plug into the audio socket of your iPhone (or other phone in the future), that you can then swipe your card through. The card data is converted into an audio signal which then makes its via the Square app and wi-fi or mobile broadband back onto the bank payment transaction networks to execute the transaction. You sign for the transaction on the touchscreen and can be backed up by photo i/d on the phone and you get a receipt by SMS or email.
My personal reaction to the development:
It is good news for mobile commerce and payments generally - the sector is going places and there many people thinking of many different ways of enabling payments by phone
This particular development though I'm less optimistic about because to achieve widespread acceptance there will need to be versions that work on a wide variety of phones. At this stage I believe it is for the iPhone and Android. On the other hand it could be seen as a cool app. Photo i/d? Now I like that.
Having to sign for payments could be seen as a backward step in countries where using Chip and PIN is standard and where the move is towards shorter transaction times using technologies such as NFC or contactless cards. Would people sign a phone screen to make payment? I'm a bit sceptical but that's just my view.