Mobile Payments & the Slow March Forward

The mobile wallet continues its molasses march forward.

Following delayed and retooled pilots in Austin and Salt Lake City, the carrier consortium Isis announced it will be rolling out the system nationally later this year (see story here).

I remember the first time I tried the Isis system almost a year and a half ago. It was following a panel on mobile payments at the annual SXSW mega-confab addressing the why and when of mobile payments.

The focus of the panel was on the Isis joint venture with Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile working to provide a commerce network for merchants, banks and other carriers.

At that time, the panelists agreed that last year would not be the year of large-scale adoption of any mobile payment options, including Isis, and they were certainly right about that.



Not that any consumers care, but Isis uses NFC (Near Field Communications) technology built into some smartphones. That, of course, is the big catch of the day.

Most phones don’t yet have NFC, though recent forecasts from ABI Research project the number of NFC-enabled devices next year to be somewhere north of 500 million. So it is coming.

The true value of mobile payments, as discussed on that panel, is the value a consumer could potentially receive. The idea is that with on-the-spot information about customer location, payment history and other factors, merchants could offer relevant coupons and other deals with higher relevance.

And we all know from countless studies, mobile consumers are attracted to deals like (insert your own analogy here).

Perhaps more interesting to note was the level of interest from the crowd at SXSW, hardly a gathering of tech novices.

The Isis team brought a vending machine for an NFC-payment demo. Crowds gathered and waited their turn to see the ‘payment magic.’

I loaded my Google Wallet MasterCard app on my Samsung Galaxy Nexus, tapped the machine and instantly received the product. No big deal. (Of course, Google Wallet is no longer available for my Nexus, but that’s another issue.)

Interestingly, people waited in line for lengthy periods just to see the payment system work. Just like putting in coins, except by tapping a phone.

Isis is hardly alone in launching a mobile payment service. I’ve lost count of how many different mobile payment systems there either are or are coming.

Maybe the novelty factor will lead to behavioral change in mobile payments over time.

Until then, we’ll just keep waving our phone code at Starbucks checkout.


4 comments about "Mobile Payments & the Slow March Forward".
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  1. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, July 31, 2013 at 12:59 p.m.
  2. Rob Schmults from Intent Media, July 31, 2013 at 1:48 p.m.

    I think the carriers are the only ones who still (or maybe who ever) wanted NFC. Feels like now with cloud based solutions, it's time my never come. Could based solutions just have better utility, don't require the same capes, etc. Heard an interesting line at NRF Tech on Monday about NFC attributed to the Apple mobile team. They said NFC stands for "Nobody Freaking Cares" (they actually used a different word than freaking). I think the carriers are the only ones who still care.

  3. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, July 31, 2013 at 1:51 p.m.

    Yes, Pete, it is very big but not all that fast.

  4. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, July 31, 2013 at 1:53 p.m.

    Thanks Rob, especially for the overheard commentary. At the recent MediaPost OMMA mCommerce conference, one of the speakers essentially referred to NFC as the worst thing that ever happened to mobile payments.

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