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Cash, Credit, or Cell?

According to an article by Scott Canon of the Kansas City Star, Sprint Nextel confirmed yesterday that it intends to lead the way in the US transition to NFC.

For those of you who don’t know, NFC stands for “near field communication” and is a technology that, when included in our cell phones, turns them into a type of mobile payment device.  Using specially-designed checkout terminals or readers, a person can swipe their phone to pay for goods and services.

Originally, Sprint Nextel was part of a group that included  Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and T-Mobile, all who were working with Barclays to create a system around “Isis”, a system which probably will not be ready for market until next year.  Sprint got impatient and has now broken away from the group.  Now, it’s looking at focussing on selling target advertisements and coupons that will appear on a user’s phone.  The user can then buy into whatever product is being promoted and the expenditure will be charged to a credit or debit card, rather than appear on their cell phone bill.

The premise behind the break makes some sense for the user; according to Timm Bechter, a Waddell and Reed analyst for wireless and financial transactions, the benefit of having a cell phone that serves as a payment device is unclear.  After all, using a debit or credit card isn’t that hard; it’s not like it’s too bulky or difficult to carry.