The Rise of Mobile Payment

Mobile Payment Replaces Cash

iPhone Mobile Payment, 100 Euros, (Photo Credit: Flickr, Monty Metzger)

Hey, cash, it was nice knowing you, but I’m moving on.

According to a story this week in the New York Times, Square, the San Francisco start-up that is out to kill cash with its mobile payment gizmo, has formed an alliance with Starbucks.

To alert consumers and investors, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and Square co-founder Jack Dorsey have been doing the press rounds, being interviewed by major news outlets and appearing on national business television networks.

No doubt this is pretty big news.  In the coming months, Square is poised to take over the processing duties of credit and debit card transactions at all U.S. Starbucks stores.  The Times also reported that in the not too distant future, I will be able to pay simply by giving the barista my name.  What’s next, a retinal scan as I walk in the door that simultaneously orders my usual and charges my card?  I can definitely see that happening, but what if I want a Grande instead of a Tall?

There’s no doubt mobile payments are here to stay. They’re cool and convenient, unless you drop your phone into the bathtub — yes, that really happened.  But don’t make the funeral arrangements for cash just yet. As Fortune technology writer Miguel Helft points out, “changing the way Americans pay for stuff is going to be really hard work.”

It’s hard to imagine a world without cash.  Things do change however.  Just the other night, I was telling my children about nearly extinct products like typewriters, 8-tracks, VCRs and rotary phones, which were indispensable when I was their age. At the time, you’d never imagine these items ending up on the scrap heap. This leads me to believe that in the mobile payment revolution, once the kinks are worked out and buyer and seller are in sync, cash will just be another item on the “when we were kids” agenda.

The trick right now for mobile payment providers is communicating that proposition to consumers and merchants, no small feat. Looks like Schultz and Dorsey have more media to do.

Ron Neal,

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