8 July 2010
Last week, I went to Seoul, South Korea to research the Korean mobile contactless payments market. The Korean smart phone market is filled with excitement. Even though iPhone 4 has not been launched yet in Korea (it will be launched at the end of July), GALAXY S by Samsung has attracted nationwide attention instead. The number of GALAXY S subscribers passed 200,000 within 10 days after launching. In mid-July, GALAXY S will be equipped with RFID capability, which will enable the popular phone for mobile contactless payments functionality (in Korea, another RFID standard, not NFC, is used for contactless payments). It is the first time for smart phones to be equipped with RFID functionality in Korea, The contactless payments players are very happy with this launch because it means the Korean mobile contactless payments market may be booming again. After the widespread adoption of smart phones in recent years, the mobile contactless payments market has been in a slump in Korea because RFID chips have not been embedded in smart phones, although traditional mobile phones are equipped with RFID. “The possibilities are infinite” said a contactless payments player. They believe that smart phones have more efficient ways than traditional mobile phones to drive penetrate mobile contactless payments among consumers because smart phones have wide-ranging functionalities which traditional mobile phones don’t have. For example, we can expect RFID embedded smart phones to be used as a tool for promotional activities for retailers. The conditions are right. The Korean mobile contactless payments market is now starting to look up again.