Vodafone unveils 'mobile wallet'


Vodafone has unveiled the next "revolution" in smartphones that will see shoppers use their handsets instead of cash or cards at the checkout.

The mobile phone giant's partnership with Visa will allow users to pay for goods or services from the autumn with a wave or tap of their smartphone - in the same way Oyster cards are used on the London Underground.

The service, which acts as a mobile wallet, will be available on Near Field Communications-enabled smartphones using a form of mobile payment technology called Visa payWave mobile.

Set to launch worldwide from the spring, it will be based on the Visa prepaid account and available to users of the Vodafone stored value account.

While consumers can simply swipe their phone at a payment terminal to pay for less expensive items such as newspapers or coffees, they will be asked to enter a pin code for purchases of £15 or more.

Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao said this new method of payment represents "the next stage of the smartphone revolution" which offered customers "speed, simplicity and convenience".

He said: "Our mobile wallet will be open to any service provider and we are committed to enable all partners to provide our joint customers the richest service portfolio possible."

Visa said the service has "the potential to transform the way people pay and get paid the world over".

Peter Ayliffe, chief executive of Visa Europe, said Visa's partnership with Vodafone represented a "huge stride forward for mobile payments".

He said: "Visa's future of payments initiative is more than just a promise: these services are real, tangible and coming to the mainstream consumer market in the very near future."

Industry analysts said the momentum for mobile payments is "slowly but surely growing".

Paul Lambert, senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, said: "As operators and customers' allegiance to them are coming under relentless attack from internet companies, making sure consumers identify with the Vodafone brand may go some way to improving customer loyalty - if the service works well from a end-to-end perspective.

"Visa, meanwhile, will benefit from what it expects will be rapid adoption of the service, using as it will its underlying infrastructure and network of merchants."

The majority of smartphones do not have the Near Field Communications technology required to use this service at the moment, but Vodafone said it is the "next big thing in smartphones".

The company said that towards the end of this year the newest batch of phones will have it, particularly Android models.

The Vodafone stored value account - a virtual credit or debit card - will allow people to store and top up a small amount of money on their phone that they can use in compatible stores to pay for items up to the value of £15.

For security reasons, purchases that cost more must be accompanied by a pin code.

Vodafone predicts that the number of participating stores will increase alongside the number of smartphones which have the relevant technology built in.