Contactless Cell Phone Payment System Goes Live in U.K.

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The U.K.’s first cell phone contactless payment system went live today.

The launch is the result of a co-operative effort by a lot of different companies.

The network operator is Orange, the banking is coming from Barclaycard‘s QuickTap, and the hardware is a cheap-and-cheerful Samsung Tocco Lite.

QuickTap purchases are limited to a maximum of £15. Phones have to be topped up with cash credits in advance, a maximum of £100 at a time.

Orange says this is “going to start a revolution”, and you’d expect them to be hyping up one of their own services. But in fairness, they’re probably right about this one: contactless payments are going to be huge.

First though, they have to start out small. A limited number of retailers – mostly selling snack foods and hot drinks – have signed up to be early adopters, with compatible contactless payment points installed alongside their cash tills.

But the idea and the technology are going to spread further, fast. Banks and retail companies love the idea of instant electronic transactions, reducing the need for all that tedious messing about with actual cash. Soon, they will be making special offers and discounts to customers with NFC devices, luring them away from cash as fast as possible.

The day when using cash makes you feel old and out-of-date can’t be very off now. Our kids are going to feel about coins the same way we feel about cassette tapes.