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Mobes' pay-by-bonk just isn't cool enough, sniffs Tesco bod

The kids won't use it, let's stick to cards

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Tesco reckons contact-less pay-by-wave technology in phones has had its day - and the shopping giant is moving back to relying on cash and traditional payment cards.

The stumbling shelf-stacking titan will continue to punt its customer loyalty schemes and vouchers on smartmobes - but bonking NFC-capable devices against tills to wirelessly pay for lunch just doesn't appeal to shoppers, we're told.

"NFC usability is not really revolutionary and, for the general public, is it really that cool?" asked Tesco's enterprise consultant architect Lyndon Lee. "I think the next generation won't think it's cool enough for them and they won't use it."

Lee made the supermarket chain's position clear at this year's Mobile Payments & Value Added Services trade event in London. And, speaking to NFC World, he reiterated that paying with a phone just isn't cool enough for the next generation. Lee added that NFC's failure to gain ground in a decade proves its lack of value.

NFC chips embedded in plastic cards are another matter entirely, however, and Tesco thinks they're fab. So pay-by-bonk is still on - just via bonking a card rather than a phone - but the most telling justification comes right at the end of the NFC World interview. Lee said:

Contactless cards are already there and they already have value. Mobile NFC payments have no value to us.

And that's always been the problem with putting Near-Field Communications into phones: who will make money from it? That's a problem for which Tesco's competitor Walmart (owners of the Asda brand in the UK) has a solution, with MCX.

When NFC payments on phones were first mooted it was suggested that Visa and Mastercard could be bypassed, but the duopoly swiftly squashed that idea, leaving the industry to collect the crumbs of loyalty schemes and vouchers.

Now it's back with MCX, the trillion-dollar partnership plans to create an on-phone payment scheme capable of bypassing the existing credit-card providers through offering a PayPal-style account which can be linked to a card, a current account, or a pre-paid.

Issuing plastic cards would be tough for MCX, but piggybacking on NFC infrastructure in phones makes much more sense. The consortium is only interested in the US market (and Tesco has just given up its American aspirations) so here in Blighty we'll have to stick to carrying NFC cards and NFC phones, rather than combining the two. ®

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