Over the past year, much has been made about the NFC-enabled mobile wallet concept championed by Google but very few people can say they've actually paid for something using this technology.
So it's almost like plucking numbers out of thin air to say that, 3 years from now, transactions via NFC will reach $74 billion worldwide -- yet that's exactly what Juniper Research has done, as reported by TechCruch.com's Leena Rao today.
"Juniper contends that NFC is increasingly being used for the payment of goods in-store and as transport tickets; and is already over triple the expectation for 2011," Rao writes. "Additionally, the firm says that the use of mobile devices as an alternative to credit cards and paper tickets is one of the fastest growing segments of the mobile commerce market."
That's great but it's going to take more than consumers being equipped with NFC-equipped phones; retailers must also be equipped with the terminals (see above photo) against which the phones are tapped to enable payment.
And maybe said retailers are waiting for the preeminent technology to win out. Is it Google Wallet? We don't know yet.
Another adoption barrier, Juniper concedes, is security: Consumers need to be assured that tap-to-pay NFC is reliable.
Enter the Apple iWallet.
To be fair, we don't know if Apple's answer to Google Wallet will be any safer. What we do know is that because Apple only makes one phone version at a time (versus Google, which commissions a slew of companies to build its fleet of Android phones), it can make a more convincing case for offering a more consistent and controlled (and therefore safe -- or more importantly, perceived as safe) experience.
On March 6, Apple won a major patent for its iWallet technology, reported Dave Smith of the International Business Times, which is rumored to be one of the new features on the upcoming iPhone 5.
iWallet goes further than Google's tap-to-pay functionality, Smith writes, and offers the following additional features:
- The iWallet app will allow users to see their credit card balances directly from their iPhone home screen.
- Within the preferences, users can schedule credit card payments and set parental controls for their children (if the kids also use iPhones as wallets).
- On the retailer's end, merchants can set rules for transactions based on item limits, spending limits, time period or geographic limits -- at which point the iPhone is tapped on a terminal to pay.
- Users can track their iWallet spending within the iTunes billing system, a payment ecosystem with which customers are already familiar and comfortable.
"Apple is the one company that gives its users the total package: A fully-integrated system where other devices intelligently work with each other to make life easy and enjoyable for the user," Smith adds.
"The iPhone, which is by far the most popular individual smartphone on the market, could easily be the device to replace our wallets if this piece of software becomes available. The iPhone is already a smartphone, an iPod, and an Internet all-in-one. Might as well add a wallet."