Mobile Payments – A Fistful of Digits?
Last week’s news was full of content for those following the mobile commerce market. With the imminent launch of Google Wallet, both PayPal and Mastercard shared their approaches to mobile payments with the world. On the one hand, PayPal had a very pragmatic near-term view and much has been made of the lack of NFC in their portfolio of payment technologies. PayPal said it wanted to use what was available today (i.e. there’s not much NFC about) and demonstrated payments using existing payment hardware – the user enters their mobile phone number and then a PIN to pay using their PayPal account. On the other hand, Mastercard pitched a longer term view demonstrating its QkR technology platform. It showed, amongst other things, how audio signals or QR codes from a TV can be used to trigger product information retrieval and mobile payment and also how integration with Xbox Kinect enabled a TV viewer to use gestures like “I’m hungry” to automatically bring up a menu and purchase a take-away! What struck me were the extremes: here we have PayPal, demonstrating payment by the user requiring the input of quite a large number of digits – a mobile phone number plus a PIN. That’s at least 14 digits – and how many people can reliably input, let alone remember, their own mobile phone number? And as for Mastercard, it’s all done with a wave of the hand - just imagine what you (or worse, someone else in the room) could order by mistake on your account! Maybe NFC is the answer after all – one tap, rather than fourteen digits or one easily-misinterpreted wave. But to be fair to our subjects – they are not actually ignoring NFC. Mastercard is a partner in Google’s NFC Wallet and I saw a domestic NFC transfer between father and daughter at the beginning of PayPal’s "Future of Shopping" video. The jury is still out on timescales for the takeup NFC mobile payments, but if you want to get Juniper Research's view see here.