Vodafone payments app inches closer

Vodafone hopes to launch its SmartPass mobile payments app in the next few months and in the meantime is trialling it on Samsung’s Galaxy S3 and HTC’s One, in partnership with Visa and BNZ.

Once users have an active account, they can load funds to it from their bank using a debit or credit card, then use their mobile device to make payments at contactless terminals. Visa Paywave terminals are in places like Farmers, BP, Z Energy, coffee shops and sports stadiums.

The telco says it will also look at an iOS version if Apple starts including near field communication (NFC) technology in its devices.

“We’re using NFC capability across a growing portfolio of Android devices,” says Matt Williams, consumer director at Vodafone.

“It’s the final testing before we make the product live or commercially available. We’re looking to test the customer experience and trial the technical setup – we hope to launch in the next few months,” says Williams.

He says it hasn’t yet decided whether the app will come preloaded on handsets.

Vodafone and Visa launched their mobile payments partnership last February and two months later Paymark, Vodafone in New Zealand, 2degrees and Telecom New Zealand announced a plan to form a Trusted Services Manager – essentially an ecosystem of providers allowing customers to make secure payments using their phones. It was designed so that banks, mobile operators, loyalty scheme companies and public transport operators could use the infrastructure.

Only Vodafone customers can use SmartPass and they’ll need a device with an NFC chip built in, that supports the single wire protocol introduced in 2007 as an interface between the NFC technology and the SIM.

Vodafone says payments are secured by protecting the app with a PIN, and backing by Visa’s global processing network, where transactions are analysed for fraud in real time. SmartPass accounts can be deactivated if a phone is lost or stolen, it says.

BNZ’s director of enterprise services, Shelley Ruha, says contactless payment technology is transforming banking. “Our NFC trial in 2011 illuminated the possibilities for BNZ and this pre-commercialisation trial is the logical next step for us.”

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