Is your cell phone your new wallet?

Nokia is promoting a technology to replace cash with your cell phone

Nokia 6131
Nokia 6131 Nokia

Cell phones make calls, take pictures, and play music, but could they replace your wallet as well? We hear a lot of such promises here at Crave; that someday you'll be able to use your phone as a debit card and pay for things like your morning cup of coffee or the evening's movie tickets. Phooey, you say? Well, don't dismiss the idea just yet, as a number of companies already have rolled out the technology.

A company called MobileLime has been around for a couple years now and actually has such technology on the market. But even big boys like Nokia are getting in on the game. At CES, we told you about Nokia's plan to introduce Near Field Communications (NFC) technology into its existing 6131 phone. If you remember, NFC will allow users to make purchases, gain access to an event, or download showtimes--all by using their phone. Nokia promises that by touching their phone to an NFC-enabled business card, advertising display, or menu board, people can use their phone almost as an ID, a wallet, and a computer.

Nokia is so serious about NFC that it is partnering with smart card producer Giesecke & Devrient in a joint venture called Venyon. They'll all be in San Francisco next week to promote NFC and detail its forecast. I'll attend, as the technology certainly is intriguing. Yet on the other hand, I still haven't bought into this whole notion of a cashless society. But I'm even more skeptical of the opening line in the Venyon press release: "First, it's a new dollar coin. Then we're possibly getting rid of the penny. And now, wallets are being replaced by cell phones! What's next?" I'd say what's next is finding a news hook that's not so much of a stretch.

About the author

Kent German leads CNET's How To coverage and is the senior managing editor of CNET Magazine. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he started in San Francisco and is now based in the London office. When not at work, he's planning his next trip to Australia, going for a run, or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).


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