Why a parking meter might be the best use of mobile technology so far

By , CardRatings contributor

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Using your phone as your credit card is a practice that's been talked about for at least a decade. It's finally gaining some traction among pockets of consumers in recent years and months, at least judging from how the media has been covering mobile technology and credit cards. Here's a rundown of what web sites and publications have been saying lately:

The technology's not so good

The Associated Press's Anick Jesdanun recently did a test, using her cell phone to pay with several mobile technology systems, including using bar code systems, Google Wallet and Square, and came away with the conclusion that the technology is going to have advance quite a bit before paying with your phone becomes mainstream.

"With several competing systems," Jesdanun wrote, "it's a pain to keep track of who accepts what, let alone which phones work with which program. As more get announced, mobile payment will be even more of a mess." She added: "Mobile payment services need to figure out how to ensure that you get the same credit card rewards and benefits as you would paying with plastic."

But the technology's definitely worth it for businesses

Forbes.com recently wrote about credit cards and mobile technology, making the observation that earlier this year the professional services giant Deloitte predicted that smartphones this year will help with $159 billion in retail sales. Now, true, most of that $159 billion would have likely been purchased with or without a smartphone, but according to a Deloitte study from this year, shoppers are 14 percent more likely to make a purchase in a store when they're using a smartphone to pay for their merchandise than the non-smartphone users. It's studies like these that make mobile companies collectively salivate and want to win over consumers like the Associated Press's Anick Jesdanun.

Some good arguments for using mobile technology now

Parking meters are actually perfect devices to pay for with your smartphone, says VentureBeat.com, which recently ran a story on PayByPhone, an app that lets users in select cities around the United States and Canada pay for a parking meter with their mobile device.

As VentureBeat.com's Rocky Agrawal writes, "Unlike most mobile payment services, it solves three real problems," and he goes onto note that many meters in San Francisco, where he is based, still don't take credit cards, and all of the meters in the city use PayByPhone, and if you often don't carry around quarters, it's a way of paying via your cell phone that's a life saver; the app keeps track of your time remaining; and you don't have to go back to the meter to add more coins, you can do it on your phone wherever you are.

The most successful mobile payment system so far

The Starbucks app, according to CNET, which says that since it was launched in January 2011, it has processed 55 million transactions, which comes to more than a million cell phone transactions each week.

Mobile technology even without a cell phone

The Indianapolis Star recently wrote a feature about how mobile technology is helping people pay for merchandise even if they don't have a cell phone. As you may have seen, some Starbucks and Nordstroms are doing it, as is the athletic shoe chain Finish Line -- and that's having clerks use handheld devices to go right up to customers ready to make their purchase. It brings the clerk to the customer, instead of having them wait in line.

There's a great quote in the article from Richard Feinberg, professor of consumer sciences and retailing at Purdue University, who says of the technology: "This is the road to the extinction of the cash register. We have just gotten on the highway and not yet reached 65 miles per hour, but it will happen -- sooner rather than later."


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