Mobile Commerce: How to Get Paid


I've been meaning to write about this for a while, but today's news that the four big European mobile telecoms - Vodafone, Orange, Telef�nica and T-Mobile (UK, France, Spain, Germany) have announced a new organization to enable interoperable mobile payments is a nice excuse. You can check out the story at The Reg and at The Financial Times. (Thanks Matt and Stephan!)

I've been looking into the details how mobile payments work. Mostly from a "how to purchase software" point of view, but also taking a look at person to person or regular purchases. Right now there's not a lot of standarization, which is a problem and the reason I haven't posted this until now is that keep running into different systems for mobile payments and wanted to catch as many as I could before I posted.

A day or so ago, I posted about the success of DoCoMo's iMode and how the content providers were making money. Well, the reason they're making money is because iMode provided a way for them to get paid right from the start. This in my opinion is what's lacking right now in the Western world and why this new group is so interesting. Without a standard, your ability to attract paying customers is limited.

The Reg article talked about the fact that a few weeks ago Paybox decided to get out of the mobile payment business because they couldn't make it to work without carrier interop. Paybox was a "pay by SMS service" that I thought had a real future. I remember when I first came to Spain, Paybox was doing a huge marketing push and there were Paybox stickers in taxis and in some shop windows... that disappeared though, probably because it was so hard to "recharge" your account with money, which you had to do via a non-intuitive web page.

So now if you want to purchase software or content via your phone, there's several options that I've run into. Here's the list that I have so far right out of my outline I've been keeping:

Mobile Payment Options

There's probably a lot more (especially in other languages besides English), but the basic idea is that there is a variety of ways to pay for your apps right now, and each one is different or carrier-based. If I'm an independant developer who wants to sell something on my website, there's a hundred ways to charge a credit card, starting with the super-simple PayPal solution. However, if I'm an independent mobile developer and I want to do the same, right now I'm out of luck without joining some sort of proprietary service.

I'm amazed at how popular Handango is for Series 60 apps already. The process is quite cumbersome, since I need to pay with my credit card, then download and sync (or at least transfer it to my phone manually). However it works and is accessible by anyone, which is why I think it's popular, but the fact is that I already HAVE a connected device in my hand. I should be able to do this EASILY via my mobile already.

While taking one last look for any other mobile payment methods/companies I may have missed, I ran across PaloWireless' mCommerce News with some good links and the M-Commerce Times which I didn't even know existed. Also, I linked to this interesting mobile payment analysis a day or so ago, but it's good to mention it here again.

If you know of any other mobile payment services, tell me... I'm interested in seeing the options.


Later... I just went through this and corrected some things (like spelling and finishing sentences). This was a quick post from work, so it was a bit sloppier than usual. ;-)

Next Day: Matt points out this post by Frank Koehntopp who's actually been working on the system for three years and points out Encorus which I missed above. Since I didn't see any mention of Encorus in the news articles, so this is the inside scoop I imagine... Thanks Frank!

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