The First Natural Law of Mobile Payments

by Russ Jones on January 19, 2012

in Mobile Payments, PayPal, Russ Jones

Russ Jones - Glenbrook Partners

I realized today that mobile payments have “jumped the shark” as an emerging payments topic, and are now helplessly mainstream in the public’s mind. With USA Today and the Wall Street Journal on top of the story week to week, I find myself cringing at the confusion in the popular press.

What put me over the top was the media coverage about PayPal doing a beta test of its “mobile payment” solution with Home Depot. The stories were accurate in terms of describing what is being tested, but failed to notice that there is no mobile device actually involved in the transaction!

“Here’s how PayPal’s Mobile Solution works. First you swipe your PayPal card, then you enter your PIN.” I’m sorry, but that sentence reads funny to me.

So, here’s my first natural law of mobile payments: there has to be a mobile device involved in the transaction! Pretty simple. There are lots of different mobile payment domains, lots of different use cases, and lots of different solutions — but if they don’t involve a mobile device to some degree, we certainly can’t call them mobile payments!

Let me be clear that I’m not complaining about PayPal. While they are beating the mobile payments drum as loud as anyone (“Did we mention we did $4 billion in 2011 mobile purchase volume?”), they are not referring to their multi-channel commerce initiative as their “mobile payments strategy.” But the press sure is!

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