Bye-bye, wallets

This week’s Time magazine runs a special report on “10 ways your phone is changing the world”. As you would expect one of the topics is Can a Phone Replace Your Wallet?, in which the author, Harry McCraken (@harrymccracken), attempts to live one whole week without cash while purchasing solely using Square and Google Wallet. This experiment was perhaps inspired by a recent attempt by Michael Fitzpatrick (@fitzp) to explore how near field communication transformed travel in Japan. Yet for all the success in Tokyo (or Hong Kong for that matter) to integrate transport and micro-payments, McCraken’s was not impressed by his experience in San Francisco:

I managed to make it through seven days without cheating, unless mooching off my wife. But there are enough glitches – at one point Google Wallet stopped working altogether – that I was glad to get my wallet back.

This attempt to enforce a single a single payment method echos Visa’s failure at the recent London Olympic venues – where there were only eight ATMs to service thousands of visitors (see further Cashless at the Olympics).

A second article on the same topic is: What Is Driving Africa’s Banking Boom. This one deals with the tried and tested discussion of cross boder payments and using mobiles as delivery channel for bank diversification. In this regard it was interesting to see, in the printed edition of the special report by Time, the result of their worldwide survey. In it, “receive payments” ranks 14th as a response to “Do you use your mobile device to perform each of the following tasks at least a few times a week?”. “Receive payments” was “least used” in the USA (5%) but most used in India (31%). They don’t disclose all of their results, but it would have been interesting to know the same data for “make payments”.

Note – In that survey, “make/receive” a phone call was “least used” in the UK (83%) and “most used” in South Korea and India (98%).

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