The emergence of the mobile payments market seems almost like a storm cloud hovering over the horizon: slowly growing over time, promising to soon burst forth with rain, but causing more talk and speculation than tangible results. While on the one hand, the industry has been gaining a lot of momentum, on the other hand, some of the tipping points we’ve been looking forward to have been slow in coming. However, this year, many important milestones in the ecosystem have finally started to come together, and the very way that we pay for goods and services is about to change.
But how? “Mobile payments” is, admittedly, a very broad term, encompassing everything from having the cost of the Mighty Eagle in Angry Birds applied to your cell phone bill to swiping your phone over a reader at a cash register to pay for your latte or groceries. Though many of the current mobile purchases are for digital goods, mobile payments are increasingly used to purchase physical goods and services, which is a much larger opportunity. Many big companies — the major cell phone carriers, credit card companies, banks, established tech companies, and new startups — are getting in on the action. Juniper Research found that there will be $240 billion in mobile payment transactions this year, which will rise to $670 billion by 2015.
At GigaOM, we’ve been following the changes in mobile payments for many years, both on the site and at our Mobilize conference. (We’ll be discussing it in greater depth with influential thinkers from companies like Square, PayPal and Visa at this year’s Mobilize on September 26 and 27 in San Francisco.)
Given that mobile payments has taken a great leap forward in 2011, we decided to call attention to some of the companies who are exerting the most influence in the space by creating GigaOM’s 25 Mobile Payment Players. These companies were chosen both for their individual merits and also for what they, as a whole, add up to. Looking at these 25 companies won’t give you the complete picture, but they’ll provide a solid snapshot of the mobile payments market and where it’s going: the major trends, the emerging technologies, the innovations and key players that will shape the future of the space. Familiarize yourself with these 25 companies, and you’ll have a good understanding of what to expect when that storm cloud finally delivers on those years of promise.
Additional reporting by Katie Fehrenbacher.