PayPal and Apple are working on alternatives which could be simpler to install
Google and others are promoting Near Field Communication technology, which involves replacing credit cards with phones which can be tapped on a reader at the till – but PayPal is sceptical
Google and others are promoting Near Field Communication technology, which involves replacing credit cards with phones which can be tapped on a reader at the till. NFC is the most high profile of the array of new mobile payment technologies on show at this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
But it requires complex alliances between banks, mobile phone operators, software developers and handset makers. Shops and restaurants must install new equipment at tills, and customers need NFC enabled phones.
PayPal’s head of mobile, David Marcus, is sceptical: “For NFC to succeed you need consumers to have the handsets, and merchants to install the terminals. It will take time for NFC to get mass adoption. By the time NFC catches up, we’ll be in a world that will move away from the point-of-sales terminal.”
PayPal and Apple are working on alternatives which could be simpler to install. On Tuesday, PayPal announced a partnership with Yotel, the hotels group, which will let customers book and pay for rooms at Gatwick, Heathrow and New York in under 60 seconds from Yotel’s website.
In the UK, the Pizza Express restaurant chain already has a PayPal app which sends the bill to a customer’s phone and allows them to pay without using a till or a credit card. In future customers could scan the barcodes of items they wish to buy using their phones, click a button on their screen to pay, and leave the shop.
Apple has similar technology on trial at its stores in the US, using iTunes as a virtual bank. The technology is being used for buying accessories. The customer scans the barcode with their iPhone, then enters their Apple ID username and password. Payment is taken from the credit card linked to their iPhone account. The entire transaction bypasses queues, tills and sales assistants.
“We are not trying to replace a swipe by a tap,” Marcus told the Guardian. “We are trying to change the way people pay in shops. We want to remove friction from the payment experience. We are very technology agnostic and we are not dependent on NFC. If NFC doesn’t happen we will still succeed.”
PayPal processed $118bn (£74bn) in payments in 2011, up 29% year on year. Of those, $4bn were by mobile. The mobile total is expected to rise to $7bn in 2012, up from $150m in 2009.
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