Drawing on recent Pew Internet surveys and others, Aaron Smith, Janna Anderson and Lee Rainie have developed a comprehensive report released by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project on the The Future of Money in a Mobile Age.
Recent Pew Internet surveys find that one in ten Americans have used their cell phone to make a charitable contribution by text message, that more than one-third of smartphone owners have used their phones to do online banking services like paying bills or checking a balance, and that 46% of apps users have purchased an app using a mobile device.
Research from comScore has found that 38% of smartphone owners have used their cell phone to make a purchase of some kind, with digital goods (music, e-books, movies), clothing and accessories, tickets and daily deals leading the way as the most popular mobile retail categories.
A March 2012 Federal Reserve report, notes the report, found that 21% of mobile phone owners had used mobile banking services in the past year and that:
A number of financial services and technology firms have set their sights on integrating mobile devices into the broader, multi-trillion-dollar retail economy, says the report.
These mobile payment and transaction solutions currently take a number of forms. Some allow merchants and businesses to accept “on the go” credit card payments from customers using a special card reader that plugs into a smartphone or tablet computer. Others facilitate direct person-to-person financial transfers using mobile devices, either by physically touching phones or exchanging electronic credentials such as a phone number or email address.
Proponents argue that these “mobile wallet” systems hold a number of advantages over the use of cash and credit cards for payment. They argue that:
At the same time, critics have pointed towards a number of factors that might limit the widespread adoption of mobile payments:
In light of this ongoing debate, the study invited experts and other Internet stakeholders to offer their predictions on the future of mobile payments, and what people’s “wallets” might look like in 2020.
65% agreed with the statement:
33% agreed with the opposite statement, which posited:
Overall, a majority of these respondents supported the scenario that by 2020 most people will have embraced and fully adopted the use of smart-device swiping for purchases they make, nearly eliminating the need for cash or credit cards. These experts feel that the explosive growth in the use of smartphones and other mobile devices, combined with the convenience, security, and other affordances of mobile payments systems, makes these systems an obvious choice to replace established modes of payment in day-to-day commerce.
At the same time, the expert respondents are divided on how quickly this technology will displace established transaction methods. In elaborating on their predictions, a number of respondents indicated that they expect this process to develop generationally, with younger users jumping to abandon cash and credit cards while their parents and grandparents make the move to mobile payments slowly, if at all.
A sampling of predictions and arguments from a variety or qualified respondents follows in the report, which may be accessed here in PDF format for your continued interest.