Will mobile and payments play nicely together?

Originally published on Total Payments.

Every day there’s at least one announcement about something new and exciting happening in the mobile payments space. But what really interests me is what happens out there in the real world where consumers are going to use these exciting new products.

Recently I was in the Bluewater shopping mall. First stop was Starbucks for a coffee paid for with the Passbook based Starbucks Card. Nothing new here except that spending £10 via American Express, combined with a Foursquare check-in, gave me £5 cashback on my American Express account. A nice example of combining social and payments. Even better, £50 spent in House of Fraser results in £25 cashback. Does this prove the future of high street shopping is social? Possibly and it’s certainly excellent value for little effort!
I frequently use my handset to check prices in store to compare with online. However 3G coverage in the area was taking a battering on the first Saturday after payday. No problem; I can use the extensive WiFi in the mall, mostly provided by BT Wi-fi. Unfortunately, whether trying to use BT Wi-fi via their store partnerships with John Lewis and Starbucks or via Boingo, it was seriously broken. I did manage one brief connection but the rest of the time just connection errors. Shocking that one of the UK’s prime shopping malls still suffers from poor wireless coverage, both cellular and WiFi.
When I started out my battery was around 90% full. After five hours I was down to 10% which necessitated a quick visit to the Apple Store to give the battery a boost via one of the chargers for the display handsets. Normally I carry a Mophie battery charger with me but on this occasion I’d left it at home – mea culpa! Constant WiFi connection attempts plus poor 3G had taken its toll on the battery.
What struck me about the whole experience is that if we are to put the handset at the heart of the payments experience there are some real challenges to overcome. You might not need wireless coverage for NFC payments but you do need it for checking prices! And to pay with your mobile you certainly need a handset with enough power to turn on!

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