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May 26, 2011

The Yin and Yang of mobile payments

As mentioned in lots of places (BGR link here), Google today announced their Google Wallet service today. I'm sure this won't be the last mobile payment solution announced this year. The question is which, if any, will become the dominant player. I already mentioned my misgivings with Google Checkout. If Google plans on running this service in a similar manner (i.e. with almost non-existent customer service), I may hold off for whoever else rises up to challenge them.

I won't lie, I'm also leery of any pay-by-phone service (not including shopping via the web), whether it be a tap or a swipe or an NFC transaction. I very much like my phone (an iphone 4, BTW) and use it for almost everything digital I do. However, I will admit to a bit of paranoia about putting my credit cards on it. That being said, I realize that it might be irrational paranoia and nothing more. As someone who has worked in e-commerce for well over a decade, I am well aware that the actual security behind the credit cards in my wallets is more illusion than real in a lot of ways. If my wallet and my phone both get stolen, I at least know there's a password on my phone and I may be able to wipe it remotely. My wallet provides no such protection (obviously, in either case I'd call and cancel those cards). However, on the other hand, I never let my kids play with my wallet either. I can't say the same with my phone. How much fun would it be to be sitting at a restaurant, credit cards blissfully left behind at home, letting one of my kids play with my phone while waiting for dinner, and then go to pay and find out they had inadvertently wiped out my payment app? There are plenty of other scenarios, I can imagine where I'm not sure I'd want my phone and payment device to be one and the same. Needless to say, it'll be interesting to see how quickly this type of solution is adopted by the masses.

On the opposite side of that coin, I am very much in favor of solutions such as Square's mobile credit card reader. I love the concept of calling someone over for a service call (or a pizza delivery), and never having to worry about having cash or check on hand. This is a technology that I hope to see a lot of going forward, especially amongst small businesses.

And yes, I am well aware of the irony of playing paranoid with one payment solution on my phone, while at the same time jumping on the bandwagon of another. I never claimed to be entirely rational about this stuff. :)

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