The world of NFC and contactless payments is getting red hot. The first month of 2011 has seen a slew of announcements and rumours relating to this topic.
I have written before about what I believe will drive NFC mobile and contactless cards payment forward. Well, many of them now seem to be well under way. Firstly, both contactless cards/phones with NFC and the terminals in shops need to be widely available (see The chicken and egg of contactless payments). Many card issuers have either already issued or in the last year announced they plan to issue contactless cards, and for phones, there are lots of rumours around Apple (see Apple: the 800 pound gorilla of mobile payments) and the upcoming Nokia E7 building NFC into the phone. There are even signs contactless terminals in shops are gaining momentum. McDonald’s move to equip all 1200 of its UK outlets for contactless payments could for example be a tipping point for the UK market.
So all is set for card schemes and issuers to corner the market for contactless payments. Right? Well maybe not. It seems there may be some truth to my previous prediction that Apple might blaze their own trail, with Bloomberg reporting Apple has already built a prototype payment terminal intended for small businesses. It’ll be hard for Apple to replicate the ubiquitous acceptance and usage that card brands have for payments, and that’s probably not their goal. Never the less, this does show that card brands will not be alone in trying to build a contactless payments network, and their competitor is one who is already a trusted brand with a reputation for security, a prerequisite for widespread consumer adoption.