Tap to Pay – Will 2012 be the Year of Mobile Payments?

One important mobile milestone in 2011 has been the launch of Google Wallet, which in partnership with Mastercard PayPass presents the first real entry into the world of NFC-based mobile payments – the technology that allows shoppers to “tap to pay” with their mobile phone, replacing the need for cash or cards with a fast new payment process.

In the US, Google Wallet is already accepted at many major retailers including Macy’s, Toys R Us, Bloomingdales and Walgreens.  In the UK, Google Wallet may be launching before Summer 2012, possibly in time for the London Olympics.

All of the signs point to 2012 being the year of mobile payments. But which companies will control this hugely important new technology?  If NFC-based mobile phone payments begin replacing a significant proportion of the millions of small cash and card transactions made each day around the world, the amount of money involved will be truly colossal.  Wise to this, all of the most powerful mobile, internet and payments companies are now implementing strategies to become the major players in mobile payments.

The state of the industry is like a global game of chess with many pieces still on the board.  Google has made the first daring move, but a number of powerful players are biding their time, watching and waiting. Very soon the real fight will begin.

In the US, a major threat to Google Wallet is ISIS, a joint venture between AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.  While Google Wallet already has Mastercard on board, ISIS has crucial agreements in place with all four of the major card companies: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express.  Furthermore, the ISIS technology will operate in a different way to Google Wallet, passing control of your digital wallet (or electro-purse if you prefer) from your device to the SIM card stored inside. The ISIS system may not have its own payments app like Google Wallet, instead opting to embed its technology inside other trusted apps (most likely the official app for your bank).  This alternative approach may see ISIS emerge almost from nowhere and suddenly become the standard in mobile payments.

Similar to the ISIS collaboration between the major US mobile operators, here in the UK the three biggest networks have also joined forces.  Vodafone, O2 and Everything Everywhere are planning “Project Oscar”, a new venture with similar aims to ISIS that also presents a significant competitive threat to Google Wallet.

Visa, the leading credit card provider, is creating its own system, due for launch in 2012, as is PayPal.  RIM, Telefónica, Carphone Warehouse and many other global companies are also making moves in this direction.

When Will Apple Enter the Mobile Payments Arena?

One company touted as a potential leader of mobile payments that has been silent on this issue thus far, is Apple.  The NFC technology required to participate in the “tap to pay” game has been present in many of Nokia’s mobile phones for several years, and more recently the majority of new Android devices from Samsung, Google and HTC have also included NFC.  Rumours have speculated that each of Apple’s last few iPhone releases would include NFC also, but interestingly Apple have decided not to enter the NFC arena just yet.

The momentum building behind NFC would suggest that Apple’s NFC-enabled iPhone is surely just around the corner.  Whether Apple plans to compete with Google Wallet or work in harmony with ISIS and other operator-controlled ventures remains to be seen, but Apple has a few competitive advantages over Google Wallet. Most importantly Apple already has the credit card details of over 200 million users, which Steve Jobs claimed to be the biggest database of credit card details held by any internet company.  iPhone users are much more comfortable purchasing apps than Android users, which is clearly demonstrated by the sales of apps on Apple’s App Store when compared with the Android Market, where developers have struggled to sell apps in the volumes achieved by the top apps on Apple’s App Store.

When Apple inevitably enters the NFC mobile payments game, they will bring with them millions of users that are probably more comfortable using this type of system than any other group of mobile phone users, and therefore the adoption of mobile payments on iPhone could be far faster than any of the competing mobile payments providers will be able to achieve.  Reseach by Retrevo suggest that more users would trust Apple to provide a digital wallet than any of the credit card companies, mobile operators, or other internet companies, including Google.

Personally I’m looking forward to the day when my phone can be used to make rapid purchases in most shops, without the need for cash or chip-and-pin.  When the lock on my front door is also NFC-enabled, the routine of picking up my keys, wallet and phone before leaving the house will be greatly simplified.  However, with this efficiency and regained pocket space comes a dangerous consequence:  lose your phone and you are well and truly screwed.

A Mobile Website is No Longer ‘Optional’

mobile growth

Smartphone uptake has been phenomenal in recent years. As a society we’ve simply become accustomed to having the Internet in our pockets. We expect it. We expect to be able to check train times, look up cinema times and even shop on our mobile devices, wherever we are and at whatever time of day we choose to do so.

In fact, it is estimated than ten years from now, mobile commerce will be worth £19 billion globally.

An interesting statistic that came out of the Google@Manchester event we attended last week was this:

Only 17% of UK businesses have a mobile website – but 45% of consumers use their smartphones in the shopping process!!


Something doesn’t add up there.

Our own mobile research indicated that, by July 2011, more than 12% of web visits originated from a mobile device. More recent figures suggest this has reached closer to 20% and the rate of growth is phenomenal.

Mobile Search

Google’s own keyword tool enables you to see search data from both desktops and mobile devices and this can be used to illustrate the growth. Let’s take a look at three of the most competitive UK keywords.

The search volumes here are based on an average of the previous 12 months.

While the figures for mobile search are significant, they are still dwarfed by searches from desktops. But when you look at the rate of growth, this is where it becomes staggeringly obvious that mobile is only going to get bigger and that it’s going to happen quickly. In December 2010, the mobile search volumes (of course, some seasonal fluctuations, particularly in holidays, will apply) were:

  • Cheap holidays – 12,100
  • Car insurance – 12,100
  • Loans – 9,900

Figures aren’t yet available for October and November 2011, but we’ll update this when they are.

A Mobile Site is Essential

Wherever you get your website traffic from, whether it’s SEO, PPC, social media or other forms of advertising, there is a cost involved. This investment in generating qualified traffic to your site becomes less valuable if 20% of your visitors can’t navigate your site properly and are just going to leave and find a competitor who does have a mobile solution.

As consumers, we’ve come to expect an easy browsing experience. If we’re looking to buy something online, we want an easy purchasing experience. If we have to work at it, we’ll go elsewhere.

A mobile website isn’t something that’s just ‘nice to have.’ With the number of smartphone users growing and mobile web visitors making up a fast increasing proportion of web traffic, failing to cater to your mobile visitors could effectively mean losing out on the possibility of ever engaging 20% (or more!) of your audience.

Android – Open Source and Easy?

We love technology at Tecmark, especially as it plays such a large role in our industry.

We’re quite partial to Apple and the way that it ‘just works.’ We love the freedom that Android can deliver for our developers and clients and are excited about the potential that Windows holds.

18 months ago, the market asked for iPhone, then iPad and then both. Android was a consideration, Blackberry had a mention and Windows Mobile was but a passing thought. And let’s not mention Nokia or Palm OS because nobody else did!

Now, 95% of the time the market is asking for Apple iOS and Android OS and Windows is now a real consideration, while Blackberry is slipping in popularity. In fact, according to a recent study by IDC, the Windows platform has seen the greatest rise in interest ever from developers since the mobile platform was released.

I think 2012 is going to be a three-platform race and that doesn’t include Blackberry. We’re keeping our little geeky eyes on Windows – the Nokia Lumia handset is a breath of fresh air and just what the new Nokia/Microsoft partnership needed.

But let’s get back to Android. It’s open source, which is a good thing; it strengthens the community of developers with a collective and shared goal of ‘making it better’. Android is available on over 700 handsets, through a varying spectrum of device pricing. According to Millennial Media, 56% of impressions came from Android and 28% from iOS – compelling figures.

It doesn’t, however, mean that it’s easier to develop on – quite the opposite actually! Fragmentation is the main problem here and when the market wants the same quality on Android as iPhone, we ask ‘on which device?’ 15 of the top 20 handsets in Europe run some form of Android and all behave differently.

Developing on Android requires four sets of graphics at four different resolutions enabling the app to scale correctly on the majority of  devices. Some handsets have density ratios rather than pixel ratios, faster processors than others and more capable ways of removing cache from the memory.

What I can guarantee is that the general Joe Bloggs wouldn’t know this or even want to know it!

At Tecmark, however, we’re passionate about learning the ins and outs of various Android devices in order that, when our clients ask us for apps of comparable quality across both Apple and Android, we are able to honestly tell them the Android devices on which this is possible.

iPhone 4S – To Upgrade or not to Upgrade?

I was hoping for an iPhone 5 launch yesterday. I was as excited as a child on Christmas Eve before the announcement. But by the end of it, I was as deflated as I was the day I found out Santa was an elaborate lie. However, things always look a bit better in the morning, don’t they? And I’ve now had chance to have a real look at the additional features the 4S has to offer over my iPhone 4.

General thought is that iPhone 3G and 3GS users will be the key ‘iPhone upgraders,’ and that there may not be enough in the 4S to tempt those who already have an iPhone 4 into an upgrade.

I’m an iPhone 4 user and am now faced with the ultimate question – to upgrade or not to upgrade (21st century problems, eh?).

Why Upgrade from iPhone 4 to iPhone 4S?

There are a LOT of new features, including:

  • Dual core A5 chip. That means 2x faster performance and that graphics will be 7x faster and what that means for me is that gaming will be better. Yes, these things matter to me.
  • 1080p HD video recording. This, on a mobile, is really quite impressive.
  • 8MP camera. They made a real song and dance about this in the launch yesterday and it’s easy to see why. They’re touting it as ‘possibly’ the best camera ever on a mobile device. Another reason to upgrade.
  • Siri. Now this looks pretty good based on the demos I have seen. How well it works in practice remains to be seen of course but essentially it’s a voice control system for the phone. Apple have, quite rightly, identified that users in general are not making much use of voice commands on their phone. If you ask me, that’s because people feel like utter fools walking down the street holding their phone in front of their face and saying over and over again (slowly and loudly as though they were ordering beer in a Spanish bar) ‘Call Mum. I said MUM. Caaaallll Muuuuum.’ Apple reckons it has the solution though with Siri. It’s conversational and, from what I’ve seen so far, intelligent! For example, if you have your hands full, your phone in your pocket and you get a text message, you can say ‘read message,’ to have it read aloud to you before telling the phone whether you want to reply (then dictate your reply) or whether to close it. And that appears to be one of the more basic uses of Siri. Check out the demo below for some of the really impressive stuff. It remains to be seen how well it will work with extreme accents of course, but nonetheless, it’s a selling point for me, particularly as this will be exclusive to the iPhone 4S. Note though, it has been released as a beta.

  • iOS 5 boasts 200 new features, including Twitter integration and some pretty impressive notifications capabilities. This will be available to me on my iPhone 4 as well, of course, so I wouldn’t necessarily have to upgrade to benefit. But surely it makes sense to have a shiny new phone to accompany the shiny new OS? Maybe? That’s my excuse anyway!
  • Antenna. For me, my only complaint with the iPhone 4 has been with its performance as a phone! It cuts out too often and I know other iPhone 4 users who experience the same issues. The 4S will have 2 antennas for improved performance as a phone.
  • Battery life is improved. 8 hours 3G talk time, 9 hours talk time if you’re connected to Wi Fi, (as well as matching the iPhone 4′s 40 hours music playback and 10 hours video playback).

Why NOT Upgrade?

Well, there are of course sensible concerns like the fact that upgrading on contract with most of the UK networks (who are yet to announce their tariffs at the time of writing) will mean being stuck in an 18 or 24 month contract and the smartphone giant will undoubtedly announce another model in that time. But surely that’s just a fact of life with a Smartphone? New models come out all the time and it’s only ever a matter of a couple of months before something more advanced than you have is on the market. So for me, this isn’t too much of a concern.

The one flaw for me is that while battery life has improved in many respects, the standby battery life is lower in the iPhone 4S than the iPhone 4. The iPhone 4S is quoted as having ‘up to 200 hours’ standby battery life compared to the iPhone 4’s ‘up to 300 hours.’ But again, considering how infrequent it is for me to ever have my phone purely on standby, this isn’t a major concern for me.

Who Am I Kidding?

Of course I’m going to upgrade. Even thinking about not doing is just me trying to convince myself that I’m not one of the people eager to get their hands on the new device and playing right into Apple’s hands.

In case you haven’t heard, release date is 14th October, but you can pre-order online from 7th October. We’ll post here when the UK networks have announced their pricing!

What’s Happening to Your Mobile Traffic?

Over 12% of traffic to UK websites now originates from a mobile device.  This is growing month on month so it’s imperative that you’ve giving your mobile users a positive experience on your site. Thanks to Google Analytics, it’s pretty straightforward to identify tell tale signs about whether or not your mobile users are taking to your site the same way they would on a desktop.

Before taking any of the numbers we talk about below into consideration, you should take into account the following:

  • Seasonality. Maybe your site sees fluctuations in both traffic levels and user interaction according the time of year. As such, try to look at data that spans a year or, in the very least, compare metrics with the year before.
  • You should really only be comparing mobile stats against site average or desktop only stats. For example, maybe your mobile traffic has a bounce rate of 70%. This might look awful on paper, but if your site average bounce rate is 75% it actually means your mobile bounce rate is better. So get a good idea of your site’s average performance before reading too much into mobile traffic statistics.
  • Mobile users often have different expectations. So, for example, if someone types ‘shoe shop,’ into Google from their computer at home, it’s a fair assumption that they’re looking for an online store to make an online purchase. If someone types it in from a mobile device, there’s a good chance that they’re looking for one close to them while they are out on the move – therefore they could actually be expecting to see an address, a map or some directions from where they are. If a user is presented with something unexpected, their behaviour is often different on the site. So if you do not have a specifically optimised mobile website that caters for this, then your mobile traffic could be behaving differently for that reason.

Key Metrics to Look at

Bounce Rate: As much as I have a problem with using bounce rate as the ultimate means of measuring whether a website is ‘good,’ I do believe it has its place here. However, it has to be relative to your site as a whole. So, by all means,  compare the bounce rate of your mobile users to your non-mobile users as a means of assessing whether or not there might be an issue with the user experience for mobile users on your site.

Average Time on Site: Again, this should be compared to the website as a whole. If your site in general has a particularly low average time on site, then you would expect this to be the case for mobile users too. But let’s say your non-mobile users spend an average of 5 minutes on your website and your non-mobile users spend 2 minutes, then there’s potentially a cause for concern there.

Number of pages viewed: As with anything else, this should be considered in comparison to the same figures for your non-mobile users.


Conversion Rate: Bounce rate, user time on site and pages viewed is relatively unimportant if the conversion rate is remarkably high. Maybe your mobile users are spending less time on your site because they’re finding their way more quickly to conversion?  This is another absolutely key element to consider.

Optimising for Your Mobile Users

In September 2009, less than 0.1% of traffic came from a mobile. By February 2011, this was over 8% in by the end of July 2011 it had grown again to more than 12%. Mobile usage is anticipated to exceed desktop usage by 2014 so this is no longer an insignificant proportion of users.

Mobile optimisation is essential and includes:

  • Building a site that displays clearly and easily on a mobile device
  • Tailoring content to a mobile user’s expectations and requirements from your site
  • SEO campaigns tailored specifically for mobile.

Spike’s House Party on the BBC

One of Tecmark’s most recent projects is Spike’s House Party, a game developed for Oxfordshire DAAT.

The game is designed to increase awareness of the dangers of drugs and alcohol usage. The app is available, free of charge, on Android here and will be available for iTunes very soon!

Some of Our Favourite Mobile Facts and Figures

I love my Smartphone (an iPhone in my case). I really do. More than I’ve ever loved any other inanimate object in my entire life. And I’m not alone. Comscore reported recently that there is now a 41% Smartphone penetration in the UK alone and we’re using our beloved gadgets and gizmos for way more than just making a few phone calls. We watch videos and TV, we send emails, we Tweet, Digg, StumbleUpon, we Facebook, we search for things, we read, browse, plan travel, book holidays, fling cartoon birds at cartoon pigs, check the football scores, learn languages, find discounts, listen to music, share music, create ‘music’ (I love Songify), we take photos, share them, we record videos and upload them, we catch up on the news…

The list goes on. But what figures emerging show recently is that we’re also engaging in more mobile shopping. We’re buying products and services (not just app downloads or music) through mobile apps and mobile websites.

Being the gadget loving bunch of geeks we are, we’re regularly reading articles and pulling out the key statistics on the growth of mobile (as well as conducting our own research). Here are a few of our favourites from the past few months.

Mobile Apps

  • As of September 2011, there are more than 425,000 apps on the Apple App Store and there have been over 15 million downloads. (Source: Apple)
  • As of September 2011, there are more than 277,000 apps on the Android Marketplace and there have been over 6 billion downloads. (Source: Research2Guidance)
  • Mobile users spend 81 minutes a day using apps – surpassing the 74 minutes spent per day on web (As read on Guardian.co.uk).

Mobile Commerce

  • 1 in 3 Smartphone users would use contactless payments via their Smartphone if they had the opportunity. (Source: Yougov)
  • The average value of a transaction carried out on a mobile device has increased by a whopping 43% in the last 12 months. (Source: IAB)
  • Smartphone users prefer to make purchases via a mobile website than an app and the average transaction value is higher on a mobile site than in an app.  (Source: IAB)
  • Paypal processes $10 million per day in mobile transactions. (Source: Official Paypal Blog).
  • 78% of potential car buyers say they will use their mobile device for both researching and making their purchase. (Read on: GoMoNews)
  • There is one purchase every single second through Ebay’s mobile apps. (Source: Mobile Commerce Daily)
  • Ebay generated $2 billion worth of sales through mobile devices in 2010. (Source: Mobile Commerce Daily)

Mobile and Social Media

  • There are more than 250 million active Facebook users accessing the social media platform from their mobiles. (Source: Facebook)
  • Users who access Facebook through their mobile devices are twice as active on Facebook as those who do not. (Source: Facebook)
  • 40% of Tweets come from Mobile. (Read on Mashable)
  • 10% of all Youtube video views are mobile – that amounts to 320 million daily views. (Source: Youtube).

Was Google’s acquisition of Motorola a good idea?

Earlier this month, Google announced it was acquiring Motorola Mobile for $12.5 billion. Everyone in the technology world pretty much agrees this was a bold move by Google, but whether it was a sensible decision remains open to debate.

In the world of online search, Google is by far the dominant force, with 92% market share in the UK and 65% in the US.

In the world of mobile operating systems, however, they remain very much overshadowed by Apple. Our own research on UK mobile Internet traffic gives you an idea of the balance of power; 75% of all mobile web traffic in the UK comes from iPhones and iPads, whilst devices running Google’s Android OS currently account for 14.6%.

Google are also competing with Microsoft in both search and mobile, as well as other areas such as Google Docs versus MS Office.

The acquisition of Motorola Mobile, then, is clearly an effort to respond to the challenges presented by rivals like Apple and Microsoft. Google wants to position itself as the undisputed heavyweight of the technology world. But have they just taken a big step forward on that journey, or does this headline-grabbing acquisition represent an uncharacteristic lapse in judgement?

The good

• The acquisition of Motorola will strengthen Google’s patent portfolio, enabling them to “better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies,” according to Google CEO Larry Page.

• Owning a hardware company may enable Google to unify Android, moving away from its current fragmented state. This would reduce the amount of coding and testing developers have to do, and help to make it a more secure and reliable OS.

The bad

• Some analysts have suggested the value of Motorola’s patents may have been substantially overestimated. The company is already in legal battles with Microsoft and Apple, and this adds additional risk to the Google deal.

• Google has no experience of hardware manufacturing, and now has thousands of people on its payroll who may not fit into the existing corporate culture.

• Google has created a situation where it is competing with its own partners. It is possible that manufacturers currently producing Android handsets, such as HTC and Samsung, could move to another OS if Google’s new hardware division starts undermining their position.

At this stage, we can only speculate on how this move will pan out. When writing a cheque for $12.5 billion, there will always be an element of risk, but this is most likely a gamble that has been carefully calculated by Google. If Android ultimately becomes more stable and more integrated with the hardware it runs on, that will be good news for developers and users alike. Whether that will come at the expense of choice for consumers remains to be seen.

Puttluck Tourney Tees Off!

It’s finally here! One of the greatest golfing tournaments in the world…. The Open! That teed off early this morning and just as it did, so too did too the Puttluck tournament – just as prestigious in virtual terms!!

Anticipation has been building over recent days with the Puttluck competition featured in the Mirror, on Pocket Lint and on Loaded Magazine too.

The competition is run through Gamecenter and full terms can be found on the Puttluck website. The prize pool is an impressive £500/$800 worth of golfing gear ‘putt up’ (sorry) by sponsor, Black Widow.

You can download the app here, go to ‘competition’ on the app’s home screen and get putting.

Puttluck competition tees off

Fancy winning £500? Then make sure, if you haven’t already, that you download Puttluck from the App Store today.


Tecmark developed Puttluck for PGA golfer Steve McGuinness earlier this year. It’s the first golf game to make use of the iPhone 4’s gyroscope – you control the game by gripping and swinging your handset just like a real putter.

To make things more exciting, anyone who has the full version of the game can enter a competition against other users every time there’s a major golf tournament taking place. Whoever manages to amass the highest overall score during the time the real-world tournament is being played wins £500. Simple as that.

As it’s the US Open this weekend, now’s the time to test your skills and give yourself a chance of winning.

It’s also the British Open next month, so if you don’t win this weekend, that gives you some more time to practice before having another shot at the prize.

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