ANZ declares mobile payments trial with iPhones a success, but wants to wait on NFC

Mobile payments technology may take longer than expected to reach Australia, with ANZ and credit giant Visa both announcing they will not commit to a timetable for the introduction of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology despite a successful four-week trial of consumers using iPhones to pay for goods.



The announcement dashes some hopes that Australia will see NFC technology in smartphones within the next 12 months, with many consumers already responding well to the roll-out of contactless credit card payments.


ANZ and Visa said in a joint statement the trial, conducted in April, was successful from several standpoints – more than 90% of participants said they enjoyed making payments with their smartphone rather than their wallet.


All users involved in the trial, who were chosen from the offices of Visa and ANZ, also said they felt protected when making the transactions.


ANZ head of product management for consumer cards, Sam Qubrosi, said the bank “learnt a great deal” about how customers use NFC. He says there’s strong demand for such technology.


“One thing is now clear and that is that NFC is here to stay and we’re exploring options on how to move forward.”


However, ANZ spokesman Stephen Ries has said this morning the bank would take a “wait and see” approach to mobile payments, with the company wanting to watch how the technology evolves over time.


The sentiment is a far cry from other payments companies, including as PayPal, who predict users won’t have to carry a wallet within four years. It also comes after Google made a major bet on its Wallet system, which allows users with NFC-enabled phones to connect their gadget to any of their credit cards to make contactless payments.


Smartphone manufacturers are beginning to back the technology. The Google Nexus S carries NFC capability, while the Galaxy S2 also carries the NFC chip – although it was removed for the Australian release.


While Apple is said to be working on an NFC chip for its upcoming iPhone 5, the model is still several months away and there is a strong possibility the technology may not be included at all – as usual, the tech giant has confirmed nothing.


Telsyte senior research manager Sam Yip says while there is some support for NFC, waiting for the technology to become more widespread will take a while as the entire discussion is focused on merchants.


“NFC is a very business-focused technology at the moment, so there is a lot of talk about how merchants get on board, but it hasn’t been pushed in the consumer circles yet,” Yip says.


“Getting NFC more popular is about making sure that all the stakeholders are working in harmony with each other. It’s about getting the merchants to come on board, and we already have the capability and hardware to do that.”


Visa has conducted trials with NFC-enabled iPhones across the world, with businesses including McDonald’s and electronics retailer Best Buy. But many merchants already have the ability to accept contactless payments, including Australian 7-Eleven outlets and JB Hi-Fi stores.


In the United States, Starbucks now accepts payments through iPhone apps. While this technically does not use internal NFC technology, analysts say it demonstrates that users are willing to make payments with their phones instead of cash or card.


Yip says the hardware exists, but more will need to be done to convince consumers NFC is a viable method of payment. He questions whether a major company like Apple could kick off the first major discussions about widespread consumer adoption if it rolls out NFC capability.


“There just aren’t enough phones with NFC at the moment, and consumers don’t know about it. It needs to be pushed in the circle…and certainly Apple does a really great job of announcing things and making them sound bigger than they are.”


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