About mobile phones as wallets

So, congratulations iPhone users, you’ll soon have the kind of mobile phone wallet functionality I’ve had for a couple of years now.

Actually, to be fair, Apple have done one thing better than Google: Apple are promising to stay out of your business and not record where you shop and what you buy; whereas Google suck up all your purchase data and store it so they can target ads at you. This is the main reason I don’t use Google Wallet routinely.

There are a couple of other reasons why you shouldn’t be too excited about mobile payments, though.

The first is that they’re simply less reliable than swipecard systems. Often the NFC readers are disconnected or broken, or the POS system has been configured to ignore them. You tap your phone on the reader, nothing happens, and you wonder what caused the failure. And since you’re the only one who has used it recently, the cashier has no idea whether the system is working or not.

The second problem is that my credit cards have NFC chips in. It’s simply easier to tap the card on the card reader than to get my phone out of my pocket and fiddle with it. Even with a fingerprint reader and even if I only used one credit card, it would still be easier to tap the card than to deal with a phone.

Still, maybe Apple can make NFC ubiquitous. What stopped Google from doing so was that most of the crappy US mobile networks decided to deliberately block Google Wallet from working on their phones, so they could push their own wallets (which all failed). Presumably they’ve given up on that now and won’t block Apple’s payments system.

There’s also a third player: Isis, who are changing their name for obvious reasons. I don’t know how good their wallet is, because they only support specific phones, and mine isn’t on their list.