PayPal, Google, Visa, Mastercard, Square and American Express have interjected themselves into the mobile payment arena with pretty mediocre results. One of the major issues is that there simply isn't a need for the service as far as most people are concerned. Credit cards are almost universally accepted as a quick and easy form of payment. Sure there are security issues that come along with carrying 1 or 4 credit/debit cards and any amount of cash but most just accept the risks for what they are. T- Mobile's Chief Strategy Officer Peter Ewens asserted at Mobile Future Forward that the security for mobile payments was improved over credit cards but that doesn't seem to be enough to get adoption rates up. You could probably compare mobile payments and credit cards to PDF and XPS files. PDF's solve a problem, not in a great way but everyone uses them. XPS's are a great solution to the same problem but since most people have already used PDF's for years, they just don't care to switch.
All the big names at Mobile Future Forward also agree that technology like NFC, near field communications, are still about 3 years out from becoming mainstream on mobile devices and in the check-out registers of retail outlets. In the meantime, a new market segment has been targeted by American Express that differs greatly from corporate sector everyone has been targeting.
To find out who AmEx has set their sights on now, hit the break.
With their "Serve" service, American Express is looking to help teens and adults out with awkward social situations involving money. Serve empowers the average smartphone user to get cash out of the ATM for those rare instances you might need it, pay for things at retail stores and it also make person-to-person payments.
Serve is also in the process of integrating with Ticketmaster that will form a type of ticket escrow where they will hold the tickets for a certain amount of time so you can pump your friend for the cash to pay you back. Not a bad way to prevent yourself from getting stiffed. American Express is also entering the Facebook arena with their "Pay Me Fool" app that will do you the favor of bothering friends and family who owe you money about paying up.
It's interesting that this particular market segment will probably be the gateway into increasing the adoption of mobile payment technologies and services and not the corporate sector. It does make sense, however, because businesses are usually much better set up to collect money and outstanding amounts owed to them than the average consumer. Plus, Serve opens up an entirely new market segment that has a legitimate need for the service. We'll keep you plugged in about how things progress from here.