Tuesday, June 16, 2009

So your mobile phone is your new wallet?

Congratulations to Boku.com, going live today with the (old, yet renewed?) promise to turn your mobile into your new credit card. Looking at the site an judging by what I know, I wonder what's the biggest challenge lurking at their door: is it merely traction? Is it going beyond micropayments, while managing merchant vetting and credit risks with the mobile provider? I think it's a combination. But that's not my question here. My question is - are mobile phones the next "thing" in payments?

Payment services are fighting to increase share of wallet, and remove as many boundaries as possible between the merchant and the customers' money. Obviously, the mobile phone is always there, available to use, it's really a gadget, you know, it's not really as serious as a credit card. We all know credit cards are dangerous to use on the web. But taking a closer look reveals that a mobile phone isn't a step closer to the customer's money, it's actually the same distance. You don't own the "stash", only another funnel for getting some of it.

This, by the way, doesn't mean that mobile payments isn't a good idea or that it's going to fail (it might, though, but not because it's not the biggest funnel), and I wish Boku and friends all the luck; but fact of the matter is that your phone is pretty much the same as your bank account, debit card, credit or any other payment method - it's a key to the treasure chest. Get a hold of the chest (in other words - become the bank) - and you've REALLY got an advantage. Until then, I'll continue buying my Mafia dollars the same way, be my proxy what it may.

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