Slideshow 7 Ways Mobile Payments Are Getting Physical

  • July 31 2015, 10:28am EDT
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The concept of a purely mobile or digital transaction is already evolving into something more. A few companies are taking the idea of a software-based payment system and bringing it into the physical world.

One-Click Payments began selling its Dash buttons in late July as a way to bring one-click ordering into situations where a customer might not have a computer or smartphone handy. These include the bathroom when toilet paper runs low, as well as the laundry room when using the last of the detergent.

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Wallet Cards

Products like Coin, Stratos and Wocket are designed to provide the convenience of a mobile wallet without going fully digital. Users are expected to load their account data into a high-tech plastic card or card case, and then physically swipe the card at the point of sale.

'Bump' to Pay

The idea of moving money by tapping two phones together, thus adding a physical process to something otherwise entirely software-based, seemed to fade after PayPal removed the feature from its app years ago. More recently, Apple has been exploring the idea of allowing Apple Watch owners to exchange funds through a similar motion — a fist bump.

Firefly's Fire Phone wasn't very popular, but it succeeding in breaking down the barriers of e-commerce. The phone used its cameras and microphone to scan its surroundings, enabling a fan of a TV show to order copies of it by either asking the phone to listen to the show's audio or look at the box set's cover art. This tech may live on in the second Fire Phone, expected in 2016.

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More than Music

Once upon a time, when consumers spent money from a mobile phone they were primarily buying ringtones and mp3s. But today, more mobile purchases are being made to buy physical goods than digital content, according to Javelin Strategy and Research. This trend is driven by the prevalence of big-screen smartphones and one-click ordering, Javelin says.

Old Meets New

Samsung's LoopPay is somewhat the reverse of this trend, taking an inherently digital payment process and forcing it to work with older hardware. When a merchant's terminal isn't able to accept Near Field Communication-based payments, Samsung Pay can fall back on technology that sends out a different type of wireless signal to simulate a physical card swipe.

Order Ahead

The success of apps such as Eat24 and Seamless is based in part on the idea that everything about ordering food - from looking up the menu to paying and tipping for delivery - can be handled through an app. But Starbucks is reporting significant success from an app that lets patrons place an order and then schlep outdoors to pick up their coffee in person.