2014-10-13, Nerijus Celkonas

What do we mean by „Mobile“?

What do we mean by „Mobile“?

It‘s time to talk about the other side of the word „mobile“ when discussing mobile payments. Technologies are evolving at such great speed that the word „mobile“ became synonym with „phone“. Yet, there were other devices that turned mobile. Radio, games, tape recorders, computers and even TV. Of course, now all these functions moved to one device categorized as “phone”. So technologically a “mobile” means a multi-purpose device that can also make calls. It’s ironic, but when my Apple 5 iOS lagged, the only thing it couldn’t do was call.

Another meaning for “mobile” is place. Actually, that’s the original meaning and the technology merely adopted it by becoming mobile, that is, able to operate in a mobile environment.

So what do we mean when we say “mobile payments”? A phone or a place? Aren’t debit/credit cards mobile in their sense? Aren’t NFC bracelets or iWatch - mobile payments? After all, they’re not phones.

The last drop that forced me to raise this question was the arrival of ApplePay. Despite all the advantages: a worldwide brand, easy adaptation to the user, no technical changes are needed for the banks or retailers, even USA chip (EMV) problem can be solved without the need to change terminals; and despite all the risky variables (increased amount of commission payers and the “just payment is not enough” problem), that were discussed at great lengths, the mobility problem wasn’t addressed.

As we all know, iPhone6 employed NFC (Near Field Communication) and revived the hopes of mobile payment enthusiasts, even though Google Wallet failed with NFC. Thus, “near” isn’t a synonym for “mobile” by far, and quite the contrary. Those who understand payment systems know that if you need to be “near”, POS (point of sales) is involved. In other words, a retailer’s cash register where our check is born (or the sum of our purchase) is involved. POS is far from being mobile (except for mPOS), so payment using “near” technology doesn’t make it mobile right away. Even Paypal can be called more mobile than ApplePay.

Therefore, returning to the original use of the word “mobile”, meaning place: we can create payments that will be true to the historic meaning of the word. I’ve got ties with mobile payments and this embezzlement of the category worries me a lot. Mobile payment scenarios created by WoraPay have to be named by their real name: paying at a restaurant without leaving your table (to POS) - IS mobile, ordering and paying for food at a entertainment arena without leaving your seat - IS mobile, paying for gas at a pumping station – IS mobile, scanning the barcode at a store and paying for the item without the cash register – IS mobile, even buying online when the person on the other side of the world pays for you – IS truly mobile. All of this combined adds value to the “just payment is not enough” problem and solves it.

So why don’t we call things by their real names? Even though I understand, I’m fighting this fight alone. Hopefully someone joins in …. 


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