Mobile payments

Last month, I chatted with a person in a very big telecommunication corporation who had the challenge of creating a new mobile payment method.

I mentally reviewed earlier experiences in mobile payments in Spain. The most important experience I can remember was Mobipay, born in 2001 and deceased some years ago. It used a complicated system of messaging, that made the users take longer to pay with the mobile that with cash or credit card. Besides, you could only use it in a very restricted list of places, so my guess for the so long life of this service was the huge amount of money needed to create it.

In ‘Mobipay’, the lack of naturallity and easiness in the interaction dissuaded even the early adopters. Why would they use a complicated path if they already have two easier ones? This question has been answered with multiple systems.

For example, Zoompass Tag is a sticky tag you attach to your phone and you just use it as a credit card. It is not directly related to any phone, you can use it with another device, even with a block of wood. See it in action.

Interaction is quite smooth, and criticism is really good. But nowadays, it is not offered anymore by Zoompass. Why? It is not official, but security was a problem: anyone who steals the mobile can colour your numbers in red in just 2 seconds. So let’s face it: if we want some kind of security, we have to sacrifice smooth interactions.

What can do about it? Let’s use it only for small payments? Ask for a password every single time we use it? Or every day?

There are many different technologies to pay with the mobile, but maybe in this mobile payment focusing we are loosing the user needs perspective: we just want to satisfy hunger, thirst, lack of spare time… And there is an app for that! Coffee, pizza, or other small & standarized products and services. We are not talking about revolutionary technology, but on imaginative services using existing technology. A clear, brilliant example from South Korea:

If you can use the app, it is because you have previously entered the SIM password and unlocked your phone. Apps focus users on the task they are performing and provide extra services that credit cards or cash can’t. Associate your phone with a bank account and all the apps will be running and secure. We really don’t mind which intermediator gets the commission for the service (the bank, the mobile operator or the phone manufacturer): we just want it to be simple, secure and satisfying.

I don´t know who is going to design that new system. I really wish him/her good luck, because the problem is still a challenge.