Apple Testing iPhones with RFID Chip--A New Dawn for Mobile Payments?

Ed Kountz [Posted by Ed Kountz]

 

Buzz in the mobile device world this week, as the Apple Insider reports that Apple is testing iPhones embedded with an RFID chip. As regular readers of my research know, such a step would open the iPhone up to contactless POS interactions, including the ability to make payments at the point of sale.  Read about it here  

The news is positive support for proponents of contactless, and eventually mobile, payment systems. I recently took another look at the US market for contactless payments (Here) , and the news from the contactless cards front remains mixed. While early adopters report “getting” the concept, with a significant number becoming repeat users, the industry is still stymied by the overall lack of awareness of contactless payments as a concept.

This lack of understanding has been sustained by a lack of broad-based, coordinated marketing or efforts, such as POS rewards, that can help to drive try-me and repeat usage among consumers who may not otherwise see the need to convert from mag-stripe. Among my findings—without a broader effort to enlist the universal contactless acceptance symbol in industry marketing, we’rem issing a chance to offset this. And keep in mind, eBusiness executives, that the series of concentric waves is a symbol…and very difficult to Google.  In creating understanding and usage, visibility and context are everything.

So what of mobile proximity payments? In addition to device availability, which remains a problem throughout most markets, the NFC ecosystem is still evolving. I’ll give mobile-centric e-Business professionals a look at one aspect of this—the evolution of the Trusted Service Manager (TSM)—in an upcoming research report.

Outside of Asia, where de facto TSM functionality for mobile operator-driven payment services has traditionally been handled by individual operators, themselves, TSMs have traditionally fallen into one of two camps:

--Mobile operator-centered TSMs, such as Cassis, Gemalto or arguably Venyon.

--Bank-centered TSMs (including Vivotech or First Data).

--But now, a number of partnership based TSMs are emerging, notably in France and Spain. One example is France’s Pegasus, which (under the auspices of the department Basse Normandie) unites leading banks, including BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole, LCL, Crédit Mutuel-CIC, and others, with regional telcos including Bouygues Telecom, and Orange.

So while it’s too early to argue that the TSM question has been answered, this partnership-based approach offers an intriguing model for the future evolution of the TSM, particularly in markets where competition can be channeled in ways that leverage this partnership approach for a greater good.

What do you think? Is the partnership approach one that will ever translate to the US? Email me at ekountz@forrester.com