Think about what we put in our wallet; cash, credit cards, discount cards, receipts, photos, ID cards etc. But thinking about the power of the smart-phone, all these things can converge into one device. This is the mission of ISIS, a joint venture between American telcos, AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless.
On stage at Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2012. ISIS CEO, Michael Abbot painted a future where no one will need a physical wallet but simply use their mobile phone to swipe, tap, bump to make a transaction. In an ISIS study with 18-34 year olds in the U.S. and UK, the majority felt more naked without smartphone than without their wallet. When asked, if they would use a mobile wallet, only 15% said ‘yes’ but 70% said they wanted a safe, secure and convenient payment system. This proves that people are not yet psychology prepared to switch from a traditional physical wallet to a mobile wallet but like people eventually accepted buying products and services online, people will accept paying through mobile.
I wonder how long this will take to penetrate China. China is still a very cash based society. The other day in Beijing, I saw people carrying around bundles of cash freely. Although there is a growing wealth, cash in terms of notes and coins are still king and preferred. Yes, there is a growing trend towards credit and debit cards, but I feel it will take significant work to make Chinese comfortable with paying with their mobile. The psychological trust and security barrier is something that will need to be overcome for physical wallets to become digital and mobile.