Mobile payments in U.S. to top $1B this year, report says

Despite slower-than-expected adoption by consumers, mobile payments will still more than double this year compared with 2012, eMarketer says.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read
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The much-touted mobile wallet has yet to catch on with a majority of consumers. But dollars generated by mobile payments continue to rise.

Payments made via a mobile phone will surpass $1 billion in the U.S. this year, research firm eMarketer said Thursday. That's more than double last year's figure of $539 million. Peering into the future, eMarketer predicts that the number will hit $2.6 billion next year before ratcheting up to $58.4 billion by 2017.

The research firm describes mobile payments as purchases of goods and services made by scanning, tapping, swiping, or checking in with a mobile phone at the point of sale. In that regard, such payments can be made through near-field communications as well as other technologies. The purchases could be anything from a simple cup of coffee to a large-ticket item.

Financial firms, wireless providers, mobile phone makers, and other industry players have been trying to drum up interest in mobile payments. But the market is growing slower than previously anticipated, according to eMarketer.

Transactions were initially expected to top $20 billion by 2015. Now that threshold likely won't be reached until 2016. Futher, most of the purchases making up mobile payments this year will be low-cost items.

Delays in rolling out the technology, adoption issues among consumers, and a crowded array of competing technologies have all stifled growth in mobile payments, according to eMarketer. So, what will it take to spur the adoption of mobile payments?

Consumers will need to find value and convenience in buying things through their phones on a repeated basis, and not just for that daily dose of java at Starbucks. Concerns over security and smartphone battery life will need to be assuaged, which eMarketer thinks will happen as consumers become more familiar with the different systems on the market. Still, all of that may take time.

"Most researchers expect global mobile payments will reach transaction volume in the hundreds of billions of dollars by 2017," eMarketer said. "Despite these generally optimistic projections, discrepancies in scope, as well as downward revisions of past forecasts, underscore just how much the market is still in its early stages."