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Summary:

I’ve seen a lot of things at South by Southwest, but no mobile payments. I haven’t seen a single person pay for something using their phone, nor a merchant who accepts it. No one is even talking about it. But there are plenty of demos.

No mobile payments accepted here.

No mobile payments accepted here.

I’ve seen a lot of things at South by Southwest, but what I haven’t seen are mobile payments. I haven’t seen a single person pay for something with their phone or a merchant that would even accept such a payment. Granted, it is hard to find people paying for things at SXSW, given the free beer and free food everywhere, but other than a Googler showing off his Nexus and telling me how much he loves Wallet, no one has even mentioned mobile payments.

Now, clearly I have not witnessed purchases by the more-than-20,000 attendees, and with venues spread out across 15 different places, I may just be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but mobile payments are supposedly hot, and if any crowd would be trying them out, I figured I’d find them here. And there is talk from vendors on the topic: Isis, the mobile-payments effort created by the phone carriers, is showing off its payments platform this week and has booths at the show, but it won’t fully launch until summer.

TabbedOut, one of my hot Austin startups to meet at SXSW from 2010 and the makers of an app that integrates with PayPal to let you pay your bar tab with your phone, has a product, but no one is talking about in my SXSW circles. PayPal is also showing off a new digital wallet to be launched this summer, but like Isis, it’s just too early for use now.

So despite Google Wallet, which is out there but hard to find on handsets (Google is reportedly pressuring developers to make use of it), maybe we’re still too early in digital payments. Perhaps next year is the SXSW when I can leave my wallet at home (but not my charger). In the meantime, if you have a Galaxy Nexus, here’s how to get Wallet and start tapping instead of counting out bills.

  1. Steve Crowley Monday, March 12, 2012

    Try Japan or South Korea. In the U.S., mobile payments are in their infancy, and have been for five years.

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  2. I tried GoPago (in the miserable Bing parking lot) and it worked pretty nicely. But there was definitely no ubiquitous option for mobile payments. Aside from novelties like Tweet-a-Beer, which is an interesting mash-up, so many apps are building new technology islands for mobile payment that gaining widespread traction is going to be ridiculously hard. I wrote an article on it too: http://www.blackberrycool.com/2012/03/12/in-a-world-of-free-money-takes-center-stage-at-sxsw/

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