C-Spire is looking to increase the use of its self-service kiosks, so it's installing ones that borrow several design cues from Apple's handsets.

The telecom and technology services company is deploying a bill payment kiosk from Source Technologies that appears to look like a mobile phone attached to a cash machine. The idea is if the terminals look like smartphones, they will be more approachable to consumers, who are familiar with a similar interface on their handsets.

"Self-service is critical, we don't know what we would do without it," said Richard Reynolds, director of retail operations for C-Spire. "Believe it or not we still have a large percentage of our customers who still use cash, so this allows us to accept cash payments and credit cards without having to see a sales rep, who may be tied up with other customers making a purchase."

C-Spire has placed one of the new terminals in a retail store near Jackson, Miss., with 11 more scheduled for installation in the next week and another three dozen on order.

Despite their appearance, the terminals are not a mobile payments play; they accept cash, checks, credit and debit cards. The unit has an embedded bank note recycler to dispense paper money.

"The screen is very easy to use and it does resemble a touch pad," Reynolds said. "We felt like it is a sleek unit in its design, and we were impressed with the large screen."

In addition to telcos, Source Technologies is also targeting retailers such as pharmacies, health care providers and other merchants that have a high volume of in-store payment, said Keith Hamilton, CEO of Source Technologies.

Hamilton did not release data on the correlation between the terminal's design and greater use, but he did offer one anecdotal example.

"We were in Hawaii visiting banks to show the terminal. We were loading the terminals onto a hand truck and walking through the streets of Honolulu. Several people came up to us and said 'I love your giant iPhone,'" Hamilton said. "So it resonates with people."

The design has a chance to win over consumers, said Mary Monahan, executive vice president and research director of mobile for Javelin Strategy & Research.

"Most people take comfort in the things they do regularly, and this can be a powerful motivator," Monahan said. "Habit is one of consumers' most cited reasons for not adopting a new technology. The halo effect from smartphones could be a potent strategy to increase consumer comfort with a new service."

The terminals balances the maturation of mobile device adoption with the trailing use of mobile commerce.

"The advent of both touchscreen technology and technology companies taking user interfaces much more seriously mean that consumers of technology, whether the proverbial man in the street or corporate user, expects much more than they did just five years ago," said Gareth Lodge, a senior analyst at Celent. "Think about how often we pick up a piece of tech and try to swipe something, which is something that we wouldn't have done five years ago."

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