Credit card company Barclaycard and
Everything Everywhere, owner of the Orange and T-Mobile operator brands in the
UK, are launching an NFC-enabled mobile phone in early summer, which they say
will be the UK’s first commercial mobile wallet.
Near Field Communications (NFC) payment
technology has been embedded in mobile handsets in countries such as Japan for
years but wallet phones have only been trialled in the UK until now.
The tech enables mobile wallets to
be used to pay for small-value transactions, which today typically involve
cash, by swiping the handset over a contactless reader.
Proponents of the technology argue
it is a faster and more convenient alternative to cash, because shoppers don’t
normally need to enter a PIN to complete the transaction.
Some even believe contactless
payments will kill off cash.
In March 2009, Orange and
Barclaycard announced a long-term strategic partnership focused on mobile
payments – including a plan to bring a mobile wallet to market.
Early last year, the pair unwrapped
a contactless credit card – the first fruit of their partnership.
Orange is also planning to launch a
contactless prepaid payment card under its Orange Cash brand.
More than 11 million contactless
debit and credit cards are already in circulation in the UK, and retailers such
as Co-op and Little Chef have been rolling out contactless POS terminals, which
future NFC handsets will also be able to tap into.
Most recently, McDonald’s jumped on
the NFC bandwagon – announcing it will be rolling out contactless payments terminals
in all its UK restaurants.
According to Barclaycard and
Orange, more than 40,000 UK retailers will be able to process mobile wallet
transactions when the NFC device – or devices – launches.
Speculation that the next
generation of Apple’s iPhone – the iPhone 5 – will incorporate NFC payment
technology has increased in recent weeks.
Google has also reportedly been
eyeing NFC for its Android platform.