Yesterday, I paid for my coffee with my iPhone.
So you’re thinking, whoop-de-doo for you. I didn’t even think much of it myself. I simply downloaded the latest Starbucks app, coupled it to a gift card I had registered earlier online, and, voila, the $14 left on that gift card was now at my disposal on my phone. The barista scanned the QR-like barcode directly from my phone, which debited the balance on my card. What convenience — other than no longer having to carry a slim gift card in my pocket — did this advance grant me? I can check my balance anytime, which is nice, but, otherwise, not much.
So why is this a bigger deal than even I thought?
Starbucks is bringing this program out of testing just as reports surface that Apple plans a new service that will allow customers to make payments from iPhones and iPads based on “near-field communications” technology, basically beaming information between devices within four inches of one another.
Meanwhile, you might recall my recent post about Archstone’s new resident-facing iPhone app, which enables in-app rent payments by directly debiting the resident’s bank account, just as it would for desktop online payments. Once the account is set up, the rent payment function in Archstone’s iPhone app is remarkably easy to use.
But whether you’re scanning a barcode for a latte, beaming cash for a pair of jeans, or pushing a button to pay your rent, these are just more examples of how our lives are becoming more mobile, and more intrinsically linked to those little, powerful devices we carry with us everywhere.
In some ways payments is like the final frontier for mobile. We can already search, locate, learn, compare and contact with a mobile device. Now we can pay. Let the mobile buying begin.