The growth of mobile payments has hardly been explosive over the years.
Pretty much all of the focus has been to try to convince consumers to pay with their phone rather than with traditional means, like cash or credit card.
But while all those efforts continue, some are coming at mobile payments in a different way.
For example, Google is testing a new mobile payment app called Hands Free. It’s still technically mobile payments but the phone can stay in a pocket or purse.
The app uses Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to detect your location. At checkout at a store, a cashier confirms it’s you by the picture saved to Google during setup.
The shopper simply tells the cashier ‘I’ll pay with Google,’ prompting the cashier to ask for the person’s initials.
Google is also experimenting with facial recognition using in-store cameras to automatically confirm a person’s identify based on the photo in their Hands Free profile.
Car manufacturers also are looking at yet another variation of mobile payments by paying via dashboard monitor.
Honda has teamed with Visa to be the first automaker to tap into Visa’s mobile payments platform from its cars, effectively transforming a car into a credit card. Toyota and Ford also are joining the program.
The general idea is that a driver would be able to pay for products, like at a drive-through or gas station, without ever leaving their car.
A mobile app would essentially be integrated into the car’s dashboard.
I saw early examples of this from General Motors at CES in Las Vegas two years ago, to give you an idea of how long it takes for pilots like these even to emerge.
In yet another twist, Nuance Communications, of early Siri and Dragon voice tech fame, just unveiled its connected car platform with natural language recognition built in. Many major car companies, including Ford, BMW, Toyota and Daimler, already use Nuance’s Dragon Drive technology.
It’s not too much of a leap to speculate on voice being added to in-car payments, so that rather than tapping dashboard screens, drivers would simply say ‘pay Burger King $6.95’ and off they go.
While all these other payment methods are introduced and evolve, there still is a major push for ‘traditional’ mobile payments.
Once Apple finally embraced Near Field Communications technology in its mobile phones a while back, payments got into full swing, at least from the standpoint of phone capability. Android phones have had NFC for years. Mass merchant capability? Not so much.
The number of consumers making payments using NFC this year will reach 148 million, with Apple and Samsung accounting for nearly 70% of new customers, according to Juniper Research. Of course, China helped that number along, with 40 million people being registered within 24 hours in China when Apple Pay was introduced there.
The number of people participating in mobile commerce will grow to 2 billion in three years, according to the global analyst firm Ovum, as I wrote about here recently (Mobile Payments Still Far From Prime Time; 3% Of US Transactions).
Now the race is on to see what variations of ways to pay outside of the age-old and engrained methods will win out. Mobile payments will remain mobile, but they may not be centered on a mobile phone.