New ways to shop with your cellphone With improved technology, mobile commerce targets impulse purchases on the move such as buying event tickets
IN THE heady, techie days of 2000, the hype around mobile commerce was so great that as many as 100 'm-commerce' start-ups were forming every month in Europe, with predictions that the market would be worth US$23.7 billion (S$41.6 billion) by this year.
Today, most of the start-ups have died.
M-commerce has been delayed because it did not pass the test for any new technology to take off. That is, being simple, useful and trusted, said Mr Tomi Dahlberg, a professor of mobile commerce at the Helsinki School of Economics.
Mobile phones are unlikely to ever fully replace credit cards or cash. But now that improvements have been made, the technology could become a popular way of making impulse purchases on the move, such as public transportation or theatre tickets, said Mr Nick Jones, an analyst in the London office of the consulting firm Gartner Inc.
Hindsight has not wiped all rosy glasses clean, however. Experts today have a wide range of projections for this niche market: from $500 million to as much as $225 billion in revenue by 2005.
The anticipated business is enough to prompt operators to get their act together. More sophisticated m-commerce services are being introduced in Asia and Europe, with plans for a global system to tie it all together.
In recent months, Asian operators like NTT DoCoMo in Japan, CSL in Hong Kong and Smart Communications in the Philippines have started m-commerce services that allow consumers to use their phones to make credit card purchases for everything from perfume to pizza.
The approaches differ, but rather than making a voice call or punching in all of the credit card details for each purchase, the services offer secure shortcuts by storing the buyer's details and asking for simpler forms of authentication, such as a four-digit code.
More than 50 per cent of parking meter payments in Zagreb, Croatia, are now made via cellphone data services. In Helsinki, as many as one-third of subway, tram and bus tickets are now sold via mobile phones.
In Austria, people use cellphones to buy ski passes and ski-related injury insurance. They can also buy cigarettes from specially equipped vending machines, and pay for taxi and subway rides and event tickets.
But most existing payment systems are limited by national borders and the lack of inter-operability among phone operators.
Enter Simpay, a consortium just formed by Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile and Telefsnica Msviles. Simpay aims to make it easier for consumers to buy MP3 music files, games, maps, video clips or filling a parking meter and having it charged to their phone bill, regardless of what technology their mobile operator is using.
Mr Tim Jones, chief executive of Simpay, said that while shoppers would probably not use cellphones over credit cards in stores, he and the rest of the mobile services sector are betting they will use cellphones to buy on the fly. -- International Herald Tribune