UK Mobile Payments

May 4th, 2012 | Posted by

In the last few months the UK mobile payments scene has really come alive. Assuming I have the right combination of phone/ card/ MNO/ etc., as a consumer today I can already sign up to and start using:

  • Quick Tap, an NFC payments solution from Barclaycard and Orange
  • PayTag, a contactless sticker from Barclays
  • PingIt, a mobile P2P service from Barclays (see my earlier blog)
  • Simply Tap from Mobile Money Network (see my earlier blog)
  • PayPal mobile app
  • O2 wallet, launched just last week

… and I can also look forward to the future services:

  • Mobile wallet from Vodafone and Visa partnership announced in February
  • V.me wallet from Visa – UK will be one of the first countries to launch in Europe
  • Bank account-based P2P services built on the Mobile Payments Platform being developed by the UK Payments Council and VocaLink
  • Any services built on top of the infrastructure provided by Project Oscar, a JV from the leading MNOs, provided they get the necessary approvals from the EC (see my earlier blog)

I am sure I probably missed something, but in any case, the picture is clear – many competing iniatives, both at the infrastructure level and at the consumer level.

With the exception of Quick Tap and PayTag, none of the other solutions today is very useful at the point-of-sale, as most of them are either designed or launched so far as wallets for P2P money transfers and online shopping via mobile. And many suffer from early glitches around registration, or consumer experience around the application itself.

I was at the UK Payment Council’s Driving Change in Payments Conference yesterday, chaired by a well-known BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, who joked that “you should try everything once, except for incest, line-dancing and mobile payments.” I know Rory was being deliberately provocative, but he was also highlighting some of the real issues and frustrations consumers have experienced with some of these new offerings – “1.5 hrs to register”, “days until the payment even leaves your account”, etc. Some of the challenges are understandable – if the registration process was too easy, there would be those that would complain that it’s not secure enough. Others are less so. Gareth’s 13-year-old daughter perhaps summed up the consumer sentiment best with her very sensible question “why anyone would want to deface a beautifully designed iPhone with a sticker?”

For now, many consumers are hungry for new products and are willing to try things out. But if they continue to be bombarded with offerings that don’t quite deliver, there is a risk that the consumers switch off and their goodwill evaporates by the time the industry is truly ready. Many of us remember a WAP banking disaster, which put mobile banking back by nearly a decade. Today’s mobile payments don’t deserve the same fate.