Mark Bridge writes:
A few months ago James wrote about the slow adoption of mobile and contactless payments in the UK. Now we hear that Kenya’s M-PESA mobile money transfer service has arrived here. Yes, m-payments are finally going mainstream in the United Kingdom. Well, sort of. Well, alright, not at all really. What’s happened is that people in the UK are now able to send money to M-PESA users in Kenya. But what about the progress of mobile payments in the UK?
Good question. As you’ve probably noticed, there’s not much big ‘mobile money’ news happening in the UK at the moment. A couple of years ago O2 ran a NFC trial with Visa – and it’s followed that up with a payment card branded as O2 Money. Masabi is doing clever things with travel tickets on mobile phones and MoBank is delivering a combined shopping and payment service for iPhone users. You can even pay for some car parks by calling premium-rated numbers or using premium-rated text messages – but that’s about it. Everything’s about niches, it seems. Can I walk into my favourite coffee shop and pay from my mobile phone? Nope, not a chance. And this is two-and-a-half years after The Times reckoned we’d all have the option of mobile paying within twelve months.
Financial services experts Auriemma Consulting Group LLC have also spotted the delay in implementing m-cash in the UK. Theyreckon it’s because no-one’s worked out a commercial model that’ll keep the mobile networks, card issuers and transaction processors all happy… and because consumers aren’t asking for it with any enthusiasm.
But there’s hope… and it’s coming from an unexpected source. This week the UK government has said smartphone applications could be used to authenticate your identity when you log in to government websites. Of course, there are also privacy and security issues here – I can’t imagine everyone would be happy running government software on their phone – but it could also kick-start consumer demand. Or am I the only person who wants to leave their wallet at home and just head out with my mobile?