/ Technology

What the hell is mCommerce and do we even want it?

Smartphone and money

mCommerce, or buying, selling and banking on your mobile, is growing in popularity. Surprisingly lots of you seem to be up for it – but would you be worried about making payments on your smartphone?

mCommerce is a rather ugly phrase that’s been bandied about recently, and if we’re to believe what’s been said, then it’s going to take the world by storm. Our new research suggests it’s something we want, but what exactly is it?

eCommerce has been with us for some time, and broadly describes any buying and selling that takes place online. Amazon (1994) and eBay (1995) sprang up from nowhere to become coffee table names, but it also surprised me to learn that Thomson Holidays had been trading online since 1981.

With the incessant rise of smartphones, more of us are starting to make payments on our handsets – this new branch of eCommerce has been dubbed mCommerce. Catchy.

It’s already out there

Orange and Barclays recently teamed up to create an NFC (near field communication) mobile phone that can be used as a ‘tap and pay’ device for high street shopping – much like the London Underground’s Oyster Card. But while this might have the highest profile, there are other services out there.

Go to Oasis’ website and you’ll be able buy a gift voucher, which is sent to the recipient by text. They’ll be given a code which they can then enter into the fashion retailer’s chip and pin device for redemption. Other services include an app from Pizza Express that lets you pay your bill on your smartphone, and you’ll be able to pay for parking with a service called RingGo.

So we thought we’d asked Which? members about mCommerce, and the results were perhaps surprisingly positive. In our survey of 1,350 Which? members, 30% expressed an interest in the use of such payments and 24% wanted to find out more about mobile phone banking.

mCommerce Which? infographic (click to enlarge)
The results of our mCommerce survey of Which? members (click image to enlarge)

However, mobile banking is a topic that’s often clouded by security concerns, with commenter William sharing his anxieties about ‘tap and pay’ on a previous Conversation:

‘How many of you lot know of at least one person who has lost or broken or had their mobile stolen? I for one have zero faith that banks will be able to handle security correctly.’

The technology analyst Gartner has predicted that, by 2014, 12% of all eCommerce will be conducted on a mobile phone, or a mobile wallet, as they’re beginning to be known. Bad news, perhaps, for commenter Dieseltaylor, who describes contactless payments as a ‘disaster waiting to happen’.

What are we waiting for?

For me using my smartphone to pay is a no-brainer. I’d rather make payments over my phone than carry lots of cash or have to increase my vigilance when entering my PIN at the check-out.

If my phone is lost or stolen I can easily cancel any existing mobile payment services – much like I’d have to if my wallet was pinched. Furthermore, many of the services are capped with a maximum spend, so the potential loss is smaller.

But what about you – will you sign up to mCommerce opportunities when they arise, or are you concerned by paying for things with your mobile?