Micropayments Cross Over Into the Real World
By Eric Lin, Tue Sep 07 22:30:00 GMT 2004

Premium SMS has started to gain popularity as method to pay for content on mobile devices, now it's gaining momentum as payments in the larger world as well.


Premium SMS has been the mobile content provider's best friend; it provides an easy mechanism to charge for ringtones, MMS soap operas and even hacked games. In Japan, premium SMS moved from mobile content to real-world goods with the release of C-mode, a system allowing users to purchase a Coke from a vending machine by sending an SMS to a number. Similar applications took off outside of Japan, too -- at least in countries with a high mobile penetration. Now those countries are expending mobile payment beyond just quenching people's thirst.

Media24Digital, a popular South African publisher, has implemented a system allowing visitors to some of its desktop websites to purchase access to (desktop) content by sending an premium SMS with the request. Once approved, the publisher sends back a code which the user can enter back into the website to access a requested recipe or a picture from Media24's tabloid, Die Son.

Danish churches are trying to find a way to bring premium SMS into the spiritual world. They're not charging for spiritual messages, but instead looking into taking offering plate collections by SMS. They had previously considered an ATM-machine like system, which makes it sound like the churches (at least in Denmark) can't wait until NFC chips make it into European mobile phones.

In countries that have high mobile penetration, the phone has become indispensable for more than just communication. It is being integrated into more aspects of daily life. Web users don't think twice about looking into their wallet to make purchases, it won't be that hard to get them to look to their mobile phones instead. Like Mogi, the game that combines mobile phones, real world actions and desktop interfaces, as each different medium becomes integrated into daily life, we will see more applications crossing the boundaries from one realm into another.