Why Cash is Still Better Than NFC

by James Lenhart on July 15, 2011

When I first started writing this my approach was to write about the future of buying things with your phone, but after watching and reading more into how these companies want us to do that, I’ve decided to write on the issues faced when entering this market. The whole idea when bringing in new technology is to make improvements on how you used to do something. Generally speaking, credit cards did that for cash, and now NFC is the next proposed method of doing the same. You must consider that cash is still easier in some cases than using a credit card; so getting merchants to adopt this new trend will be hard unless the equipment is inexpensive, or free.

Google is one of the first players to get their feet wet in the US mobile payment market, but their partners for Google Wallet may not be strong enough to help it make a big impact. As of right now the only methods of payment are to either link a Citigroup Mastercard, or to prepay money on a G-Card. The other problem is that the service is in very limited areas with select retailers. If you want users to change the way they’ve done something for a long time, or perhaps even their life, you must make it as accessible as possible. After all, you are wanting people to spend their money, so shouldn’t that be an easy process?

I must give Google credit for laying down the footwork by getting different retailers to support the service, but until we see expansion it’s hard to say how well this will take off. Personally, I think it’s a shame how many people walk around without looking up because their eyes are glued to a screen. Could you imagine if we lived in a world where people think its easier to “NFC” something rather than just look at the nicely labeled price tag in front of them. I mean what kind of world is it where you can no longer just discover a good deal on your own.

The first version of Google Wallet will require you to unlock your screen by entering a pin before completing a transaction. Which means my dreams of having a wrist band with an NFC chip in it might be shattered until they either loosen the security, or make it to where a button press on a wrist band would be enough user interaction so that the phone would know to process the transaction. I’m sure improvements will come, but after watching the video on paywithisis.com I became disturbed by the women walking through the grocery store carrying a food filled basket in one hand, and a phone in the other. As she continues shopping she’s alerted of deals within the store, while occasionally stopping to “NFC” something. My ideal shopping experience is to not be looking at my phone the whole time, but rather seek for deals on my own, or to buy things on impulse, not because my phone says there is a good deal on aisle 14.

This technology comes at a time where most people are happy with the way they spend their money, and the whole idea of paying for something with your phone will become a fad if not implemented well. Services like PayPass, which use RFID, have been here for many years and have not taken off due to various reasons. But much of it comes from the adoption rate and if people are willing to use something new. I’m an early adopter and would use this even if it doesn’t work well at all, but most people are not like me and may get upset if they’ve bought an NFC enabled phone for this reason.

One of my biggest questions is why isn’t NFC technology bigger in the countries that already have it? You’d think if it were a big hit, someone from another country would’ve capitalized on it here in the US. I know Google likes to think that they make innovative products towards consumers, but really they make products for geeks. If you like Google, you’re probably a geek in some way, shape, or form. Granted the percentage of people who understand technology is growing everyday, so maybe I should back off and give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

I know in some ways it sounds like I’m an NFC hater, but really I’ve always had dreams of using technology like this. I just wonder what kind of adoption rate it will have and worry about the possibility of failure with something that has serious potential. I guess the next step is to get NFC technology into more hands and retailers, because after all, nobody would use a credit card if processing machines were scarce or hard to use. I can only hope that NFC becomes widely accepted and easier to use in years to come, but I cannot iterate enough that it must be practical.

Also, keep in mind that you don’t have to “charge” your credit cards, or cash every night.

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