We do everything with our smartphones now: reading, writing, photography, music. And, to paraphrase that old American Express commercial, we never leave home without it. But the one smartphone function that hasn’t exactly exploded yet — and really should have already — is paying for things.
The idea of an e-wallet isn’t especially new, but it did take the advent of the iPhone four years ago to bubble up the sort of possibilities that didn’t depend on storing information in a SIM card (which isn’t the prevalent wireless technology in the United States anyway). PayPal pioneered the notion that you could use a pocket electronic device you always carried to pay a restaurant bill or for a latte from Starbucks. (Sure, the device was a Palm Pilot, which means nothing to most 20-somethings. And yes, PayPal in its infinite wisdom stopped the person-to-person payment functionality very early in their history.)
That’s how far we’ve come — and haven’t.
One of the problems about dumping payment and loyalty cards is that the established credit card players are very well entrenched. Part is a visceral reluctance to believe that using your phone to store and convey payment and bank account information is much safer than brandishing plastic cards with an electronic strip.
This year has seen lots of movement in the credit card disruption space and next year significant numbers of people might finally be emptying their wallets and purses of all sorts of payment and loyalty cards.
Google has made a big bet on mobile payments, backing a technology called “Near Field Communication” which, in a nutshell, allows you to pay for something if you (and your phone) are near an NFC reader — no need to fumble for your card. But NFC requires special hardware, and so far there is exactly one Google Wallet phone. But Google purchased Motorola Mobility this year, so look for every Motorola mobile phone to be NFC-enabled.