Consumers have yet to widely adopt bill payment on smartphones — a trend some say is typical of new bill-pay systems.
Mobile bill pay may not take off until at least 2013, a report published in October by Aite Group said. Most bill-pay transactions will continue to take place in person and by mail, the report found, with checks remaining the most popular payment method for the near future.
"It's not like people are making wholesale changes in their bill-pay behavior," said Ron Shevlin, a senior analyst at Aite Group in Boston. "It's not like they will wake up and load all 11 bills, or set up bill pay with all 11 providers."
This is expected, he said, as bill-pay behavior has typically been slow to change.
"Back in the late '90s it was online banking that was going to shut down the branches, and we were not going to need paper statements anymore because it's all going to be electronic," Shevlin said.
"There is no catalyst that makes people change overnight," he said.
Dave Miller, head of retail banking for First Horizon National Corp.'s First Tennessee Bank in Memphis, said that "the most appealing transaction to conduct on your mobile device is checking your balance, locating an ATM. … I'm not certain how quickly bill payment will be adopted through a mobile device."
Miller said consumers are used to setting aside time to make bill payments during a specific block of time, so they see no great need to pay bills on the go. "The question is: Does the cellphone offer you real advantages over doing it with a computer?" Miller said. "I'm not sure it does at this point."
Despite all that, First Tennessee plans to roll out an application that does allow mobile bill pay sometime next year.
Smartphone enthusiasts will drive the most significant changes in bill payment over the next several years, Aite's study said. In roughly three years, about half of all Americans will have smartphones, Aite predicted.
Convenience will eventually drive mobile bill-pay adoption, said Jeff Knapp, Fiserv Inc.'s vice president of online banking and consumer insights.
"Cool doesn't get you anything," Knapp said. "People don't change their behaviors for cool, they change their behaviors based on awareness of what it is."
James Van Dyke, the president and founder of Javelin Strategy and Research, said that banks also need to be aware of the trends in smartphone adoption as they decide which platforms deserve attention. Google Inc.'s "Android has already taken over the iPhone," he said. To reach the most users, "you need to vary the platform."