The short read on Wired's no-wallet experiment

Here’s the summation of Bonnington’s brave month of living off an iPhone 5 and a Galaxy Nexus, no plastic or cash allowed.

Photo via Wired.

I'm obsessed with the disparity between the promise of phone-based payments and today's reality. I wrote about using Google Wallet at a Burger King, about the huge opportunity for Square terminals in Starbucks, and how Apple's Passbook failed to deliver in many ways. But what I did not do was actually, seriously try to pay and purchase things entirely with my phone for a month. Christina Bonnington took that wallet-less leap, and you need to read about it.

Don't have time to read all 2,000 words? Well, here's the summation of Bonnington's brave month of living off an iPhone 5 and a Galaxy Nexus.

  • The rules of the experiment: "Cash, check, credit cards, or debit cards are not allowed for monetary transactions. Period." And: " I will not unnecessarily adjust my social or purchasing behaviors ... and will not "prep" for the month, such as going out of my way to stock the pantry or fill up on gas."

  • How do you pay for lunch, if the lunch spot near your office doesn't use Square? Get lunch to come to you. and Eat24 are two apps that can get a burger in your hands with phone payment (at a premium, obviously). LevelUp works at many spots in big cities.

  • The big loss? Laundromats. Even if you find one that relies on reusable swipe cards, those usually fill up from swiped credit cards, so phone-only adventurers are out of luck.

  • The other big problem is ID. Nobody but nobody is going to allow you into a bar with a picture of your ID on your phone, unless you are otherwise provably over 50 years old. Have you read anything about governments working to virtualize identification? Neither have I.

  • When mobile payments work, they can work really well, to everyone's benefit. At Coffee Bar in San Francisco, those who use Square to pay for their coffee can jump in an express line to grab and "pay" for their orders, shortening the main line and giving them an incentive to go without their wallet.

  • The mobile payment system Isis, which is basically trying to usurp Google Wallet, is launching next week. It will not make the mobile space easier to navigate for anyone. In fact, reading Bonnington's tally of her month's experiences, it seems like battery drain and app fatigue are a fact of life in the not-quite-the-future we live in. But it's still really neat to be able to tap some glass and have pizza arrive.

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