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Gartner: 141 million to use mobile payments in 2011

The number of people adopting mobile payments will surpass 141 million this year, up from 102 million in 2010, according to research from Gartner.

The number of consumers paying for items via their mobile devices will shoot past 141 million this year, says new data out today from Gartner.

That figure is a 38.2 percent increase over 2010, when mobile-payment users hit 102.1 million. The amount of money generated via mobile payments is expected to reach $86.1 billion this year, up almost 76 percent from the $48.9 million seen last year.

The surge in mobile payments will come despite the slow adoption of mobile-payment technologies.

The mobile, retail, and financial industries have been rushing to roll out near-field communication (NFC) to consumers to coax them to pay for items via their smartphones. But implementation of the technology has been sluggish as the major players have been struggling to figure out their piece of the pie and work together to deliver the necessary components.

"In developed markets, companies are trumpeting the prospects of NFC without realizing the complexity of the service model," Sandy Shen, research director at Gartner, said in a statement. "We believe mass market adoption of NFC payments is at least four years away. The biggest hurdle is the need to change user behavior by convincing consumers to pay with mobile phones instead of cash and cards."

Money transfers and prepaid top-ups will likely be the "killer apps" driving the mobile-payments business in developing markets, according to Gartner. The ease of sending money to relatives and topping up mobile device accounts will be felt especially in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, where this year money transfers will account for 54 percent of all mobile-payment transactions and prepaid top-ups 32 percent.

But Gartner also sees retail shopping as a prime candidate for mobile payments, especially in more-developed nations.

"Thanks to the success of mobile-application stores, such as Apple's App Store, and the efforts in driving mobile sales by major retailers, such as Amazon and eBay, merchandise purchases far outweigh other use cases in developed markets, which include North America and Western Europe," Shen said. "We predict that in 2011, merchandise purchases will account for 90 percent and 77 percent of all transactions in North America and Western Europe, respectively."