A Bumper Sticker for Your Phone

Every company wants to be on your smartphone. Very few want to be on the back of it, though. A couple of years ago, Citi unveiled its PayPass card, an adhesive-backed extension to your pre-existing Citi credit card that you stick on the back of your phone. With it you can pay for things by waving or tapping it on terminals at participating stores.

Surprisingly, the program is still going on judging by the fact they just sent one to one of the employees here in the office.

Even in 2010, this seemed like an extremely silly thing to do. I mean, I can see why they’re doing it. The mobile payments industry is still trying to figure out which mobile wallet technologies to settle on and how to get people a large section of the population to make physical purchases with their smartphone. Citi’s stop-gap method is at least easy to do. No downloads, no set-ups, no understanding of NFC needed. You just place a sticker on the back of your phone and then hope all the stores you frequent participate.

Of course, the cons are pretty numerous:

  • Branding your phone to a bank
  • Inability to use decorative case covers (unless they work underneath those)
  • Obviously a temporary solution until a real solution comes along
  • Stolen phone automatically equals stolen credit card
  • Most people have multiple credit cards
  • Limited range of retailer participation

And, of course, like so many mobile wallet solutions, the biggest problem is that it’s still not that much easier than carrying around a tiny piece of plastic that you swipe.

Mostly, the lesson in our Maark mail today is just that, two years later, we still don’t seem that much closer to widespread adoption of the smartphone as a wallet.