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10 May 2010
April & May are proving to be crazy travel months for me. With 5 consecutive weeks of travel to deal with, I've tried to make things interesting by using United Airline's new mobile boarding pass technology. Although it's not mobile banking technology, it is a POS-like use of mobile phones, so I guess I couldn't resist... After two weeks of using this new service, I basically got mixed results. It can take a long time/repeated tries to register for the boarding pass, which can be frustrating. In order to get the bar code to work, one needs to hold one's phone against the reader in just the right way. In Orlando, the 2D bar code reader at a United gate didn't work. In Denver, I stood behind a woman using the same mobile service in a very long security line -- she had to go back to the main ticketing area after the TSA reader didn't pick up her bar code (her phone display may have been too small). Sometimes the reader isn't even switched on. All of this lead me to think about mobile-based contactless (e.g., NFC) payments. For them to be successful, all the right hardware (and software) has to be in place, and work incredibly smoothly. An absolutely critical success criteria is whether or not such payments are easier & faster than current payments using mag stripe-enabled plastic cards and terminals. Given what I've personally experienced with United's mobile technology (relatively simple compared to NFC), this isn't going to be easy. I'm somewhat of a mobile geek, so I didn't mind all the fuss with United's mobile technology. However, the honest-to-goodness truth is that in terms of boarding pass ease and speed, paper beats out mobile. Looking forward to the day when this won't be the case.