NFC and Consumer Choice

7 May 2012

Thinking about consumer choice today. As the MNOs think about how to lock up the SE and SE Management.. when does a consumer get to choose what is on their phone?

As most of you are aware, ISIS is charging each and every issuer for the “right” to put their cards on the phone. In a tweet 2 weeks ago I mentioned that all of the phones in market have a major problem: they can only support one card emulation application at a time. Although I’m not completely sure if this is a firmware issue or “silicone/memory” issue it relates to the storage on the NXP’s chip. Apparently the latest version’s of NXP’s chips don’t conform to Amendment C of Global Platform’s 2.2 Specification (supporting multiple card emulation apps).

What this means is that your new NFC phone could have hundreds of Visa cards loaded.. or hundreds of MasterCards.. but the phone can’t support the signed java applets (card emulation apps) from Visa (paywave), Mastercard (paypass), Discover (zip), Amex (expressPay), Transit (…).. you get the picture.

Doesn’t everyone want a wallet where all of your cards can get stored? Visa, MA, Amex, .. plus loyalty, gift, … ?

My hope is that the market (and regulators) will push to keep consumer choice at the center of mobile phone wallets. If the carriers can’t lock down the SE, consumers will be able to choose the most effective option. Retailers know that the only cards willing to “PAY” to get in the ISIS wallet are credit cards.. which obviously impact their interest in accepting a 350bp payment product.

The mobile wallet that “wins” will be the one that offers consumers the most control. Letting consumers load any card they want.. without that card issuer first having to pay some sort of toll to the mobile operator. Also letting the consumer decide who gets access to what data. This last area is something that needs improvement beyond data that is stored in the SE. Right now apps are taking the approach of “take it or leave it” agreeements:.. we get your location, e-mail, contacts, usage, …  This terrible approach is leading to an unbelievable dissemination of data that is completely out of control. This is why HTML 5 will win.. Apps are becoming the paradigm by which companies obtain almost unlimited customer information.. and consumers will wake up soon.

As a side note, isn’t it amazing that this topic hasn’t been covered more broadly? Of course it speaks to the true uptake of mobile payments (at POS) in general..

My funny story: I went to the Duane Reade directly across from Penn Station last month. DR was a Google wallet launch retailer in NYC, with all of the beautiful marketing logos. I waved my phone to check out..  and the store manager was there behind the 8 cashiers.. he said “is that Google Wallet”.. I said no it was a Citi Sticker glued to the back of my iPhone.. I asked him how many purchases he has seen from people using their phones.. Answer “none in the last 2 months”… Across from Penn Station… wow..

2 thoughts on “NFC and Consumer Choice

  1. Tom – thanks for another interesting post. Fully agree that closed ‘controlled’ systems are in neither the consumer’s nor merchant’s interest and therefore unlikely to succeed.
    While I can’t argue with your point about in-store mobile payments, mobile commerce and therefore remote mobile payments are growing rapidly. There is an interesting read-across from remote- to in-store mobile payments as the current leaders in mobile commerce such as Ebay/Paypal and Amazon are effectively open digital wallets that have simply added a mobile option. The convenience and lack of restrictions with these solutions is what consumers expect and require with instore mobile payments as well – until they get them, your Penn Station story will remain the norm.

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