Mobile Phones become Mobile Wallets

For many, the mobile phone is the core of communication – why not add the bank and shops to your contacts?  New technology can convert your phone into a credit card for cashless payment, at least if you live in Singapore.  The Network for Electronic Transfers (NETS) has just launched iNets - the third phone-cash service in the city after DBS’s AXS and Singpost’s SAMs.

The critical aspect for any cashless service launch is convincing companies to accept it right from the start – if people find they can’t spend with your system, they won’t.  Ever. iNets has secured an intelligent line-up of starting services, including Singapore Power utilities, Cathay Cineplex’s for entertainment, the United Overseas Bank, cable TV Starhub, and of course a phone service – SingTel.  The service courts new users by following the internet account model, with users able to personalise their logins instead of memorizing cryptic bank-issued codes – which might sound like a security risk, which it is, but no worse than with a credit card.

Meanwhile the West is slowly maybe thinking about perhaps doing it while missing the point entirely.  Services like San Diego’s “Fandango” are offering limited rollouts of a couple of cinemas, and you can only buy tickets or gift cards, and there’s a $1 “convenience fee” for daring to actually use a new system which saves the company from doing any work.  Or would, if they weren’t charging people extra for it.  Silicon Valley analysts agree that there are immense obstacles to cashless payments, apparently unaware that other parts of the world have already gotten on with it.

For mobile phone fans it’s the same old story: things we’re maybe hoping to get someday, Asia already has in three different colours.

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