A few months back I published a piece expressing my disappointment in the lack of mobile payment technologies here in the United States. The idea that you could purchase just about anything with your mobile phone in Asia, and have it billed to your mobile account or linked to your bank account is very appealing to me. Swipe your phone in front of a vending machine and out drops a soda, or swipe over the payment terminal in the market and pay for this weeks groceries. Fact is, those of us that have a smart phone, typically carry it around like we do a wallet, so why not eliminate the wallet, or at least make it a bit slimmer by eliminating some plastic?
Apple has expressed interest in implementing Near Field Communications to accomplish this goal. and it may be a feature we see in the new iPhone in the summer, but apparently the Japanese want that functionality now. According to a press release by Japanese carrier Softbank, they are responding to complaints from it’s customers about the iPhone 4’s NFC deficit, as the mobile payment system is extremely popular in Japan.
Softbank will be releasing an NFC “seal”, which would be very similar to the skins used to personalize devices, that would cover the entire back of the phone minus a cutout for the camera. The Softbank press release indicates the sticker is made of polyurethane, weighs 14 grams and will not interfere with the use of bumper style cases or any phone functionality. In fact the sticker doesn’t interact with the iPhone at all, and is simply a dumb terminal. The stickers will be available for three different mobile payment services beginning in Feb. and will set the customer back $36.
The Asian market continues to innovate, thus enhancing mobile technology, while the financial institutions here in the United States sit on their hands and let opportunity pass them by. Yes, I know there are apps for sending and receiving money like PayPal, but I still can’t figure out why I need to coax a soda machine to accept a slightly wrinkled up dollar bill when I need my thirst quenched.
What do you think? Would you use a NFC mobile payment system to pay for goods and services? How would you like to see this implemented in the United States?