Taking Mobile On The Road

Mobile is having an increasing effect on travel, as it creeps into large and small facets of life on the road.

Since I travel quite a bit, I have been taking note recently of just how many aspects of mobile are showing up as routine in the least likely places.

In two out of three taxis I rode in Washington, D.C. this week, the drivers pulled out a Square credit card reader, plugged it into their phones and swiped my credit card. In one, the swipe didn't read well, so the driver simply entered the card numbers and payment was completed.

One of the drivers said it took him a month to get used to using Square but now it was very fast for him, so he was happy with mobile payments.

In both cases, the receipts were automatically sent to me via email, with one of the drivers surprised that my picture appeared on his phone, since my credit card is also associated with my Square account. No hassle, no paper receipts.

In a somewhat ironic twist, a government executive in Washington I spoke with later that day said he loves using Square but that because his office requires paper receipts, he has to print the email receipt when he gets back to the office.

The taxi driver without Square said he hated the meter pay system installed in his taxi.

Before leaving town, a quick stop at Starbucks allows mobile payment by a quick read of the code in the Starbucks app and money is deducted. Starbucks says more than seven million customers use the mobile payment app, conducting more than two million mobile transactions a week.

This may seem normal to anyone who visits their local Starbucks regularly, but with so many stores nationally, the mobile payment footprint is being extended.

Before leaving for another city, I stopped by the Delta lounge where I skimmed the daily news via my Pulse app while others grabbed the free daily newspapers to take on their flights. (I have to admit I took some as well, for in-flight reading in the mobile-free zone of flying.)

After landing in Detroit for a connection and while waiting for the plane door to be opened, I asked the flight attendant if she knew what gate my next flight would depart from, since it was a tight connection.

Rather than the typical printed sheet the flight attendants often read from while landing, the flight attendant pulled out her smartphone informed me that the information now could be found “through the phone.”

She adeptly loaded her Delta app, typed in the flight number and gave me the good news that she could tell me what gate number it was. Of course, she didn't yet know our current gate number, so the next gate information was only good news in a vacuum.

Once she found the gate number we came into, she then gave me the bad news, which was that my next gate was at the other end of the very long terminal, but it all worked out.

Landing in Milwaukee, a quick tap into Google Navigation (one of my favorite apps) let it guide me to my Wisconsin destination with turn-by-turn voice directions and estimated arrival time.

Before heading back to the airport tomorrow to fly to Atlanta, I know I'll be checking my GasBuddy app to find the best price gas for my rental car on my route to the airport.

Mobile doesn't necessarily cause travel plans to change, but it certainly can be a smoothing factor in the course of day-to-day travel.

How has mobile helped in your travels?

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