"Your plastic card hasn't changed since the age of the vinyl records," said Michael Abbott, CEO of Isis, a new mobile payment network. "This is the chance to bring payments forward from the plastic age and the vinyl records age to the digital age."
While companies have been experimenting with contactless mobile payments for years, 2011 is expected to be the year the technology really takes off. That's because millions of phones capable of making contactless payments are expected to be shipped out in 2011.
As a result, this pay-by-phone market is forecast to make up $22 billion in transactions by 2015, up from "practically none" last year, according to research firm Aite Group. "Mobile payment is going to get really interesting and is going to see a lot of activity in 2011," said George Peabody, director of emerging technologies at Mercator Advisory Group. "We're going to start seeing more and more people leaving their homes without their wallets."
"I definitely believe that the mobile wallet will eventually replace the plastic card -- but it's going to take some time because consumer habits take a long time to change," she said. "But where before it's been a lot of discussion, we're at the point now where you're going to start seeing momentum toward it and going to see it move beyond the trials and into reality."
Companies including Visa, MasterCard, Google, Bank of America, Citi and U.S. Bank are all testing contactless mobile payments, and many expect to roll out mobile wallets this year.
Beth Robertson, a payments analyst at Javelin Research and Strategy, said that could mean developing ways for consumers to make contactless ATM withdrawals by simply waving a phone in front of an ATM as you would at the point of sale.