Thursday, April 20, 2006

Mobile Wallet Not Popular in North America

Apr 20, 2006 - Linknet Tech News - by Rick Hendershot

Consumers Not Excited about Mobile Wallet Concept

According to a recent study by In-Stat, U.S. consumers are lukewarm to the idea of using cell phones as mobile wallets. This is an idea that was being pushed in the 90s as "M-Commerce" -- using cell phones as mobile payment devices. But the current manifestation of the idea sees mobile wallets carrying electronic versions of other things usually found in wallets -- membership cards, loyalty cards, and other forms of identification.

Advocates of the mobile wallet concept include credit card companies, hardware vendors, credit card terminal companies, and traditional wireless companies like Nokia and Cingular. Industry representatives project there may be as many as 25 million wireless subscribers in North America by 2011.

But the survey of consumers found that only about 33% of those surveyed were interested in the idea. 72% of respondents were concerned with the additional fees that would be attached to this service. A smaller, but still very significant, number of respondents were concerned about the potential loss of privacy and security.

Mobile Wallet Idea Big in Japan

The mobile wallet concept was given a large push in 2005 when a number of major Japanese credit card and mobile phone companies formed the Mobile Wallet Alliance. The incentive for such a service is greater in Japan than in the U.S. and Canada because fewer Japanese consumers rely on credit card transactions. The mobile wallet is seen as a replacement for cash -- especially for "micro payments".

Japanese credit card companies and mobile phone companies both see this as a future growth area because it will increase cell phone usage as well as reliance on the credit card infrastructure.

Things are a bit different in North America because use of credit cards is already widespread. So converting customers to cell phone payments does not have the same appeal for North American credit card companies -- they already have the business.

However, other non-credit card payment processors such as PayPal actually do have a vested interest in seeing the mobile wallet payment system move ahead. Paypal, which has developed a massive online presence have an obvious interest in moving into more traditional payment processing areas. They see mobile payments as a way of offering an alternative to consumers and taking business directly away from credit card processing companies -- just as they have done online.

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