Mobile payments less useful than front-facing ‘selfie’ cameras, new research finds

image of samsung phone being held near a contactless-enabled POS terminal showing the new Samsung Pay mobile payment service

New research has said that people’s relationships with mobile technology, its apps, gadgets and payment services, is more nuanced than expected. Rather than just being part of some homogenous ‘tech-savvy’, ‘early-adopter’ group, people who use mobile phones can still be split into different groups including, surprisingly, ‘traditionalists’.

The research, conducted by price comparison website, uSwitch, found that many people like the good old days of when smartphones were just smartphones: 42% of people said that things like GPS, WhatsApp (36%) and integrated alarm clocks (35%) are much more useful, “miles-ahead” of new biometric features like the Iris scanners.

Even younger people seem to be rather apathetic about biometric innovations, with 47% of 18-34-year-olds saying that messaging apps by far outstrip the usefulness of things such as fingerprint ID.

Even mobile payments, only ever made popular by the inherent convenience of biometric authentication, didn’t resonate. According to the research, seven out of ten (71%) of respondents have either never made an in-store mobile payment or have done in the past but, crucially, don’t anymore.

The research probed further to find that three out of ten (31%) cite their security and data breach concerns as reasons for not doing so. A fifth actually believe they have been a victim of cyber crime. Only two percent admitted that they try to use mobile payments wherever they can.

When asked to list in order of usefulness smartphone features, mobile payments (6%) came below the aforementioned GPS and messaging services, but also below water and dust-proofing (11%), and a front-facing ‘selfie’ camera (8%). In terms of age-group breakdown the figures aren’t much better. The 6% of all respondents only increased by two percent points in the 18-34 age group. drops back down to 6% in the 35-54 age group and then drops down even further to 4% in the 55+ category.

However, there is some good news for mobile payments. Britons are more than twice as likely to use use mobile payment technology (21%) over other recent tech innovations, including VR (10%), and three times more likely to pay using contactless than use digital assistants like Google Home or Amazon Echo (7%).

“Meanwhile, messenger apps and GPS-powered services have quickly become everyday staples. While mobile payments haven’t quite taken off just yet, they head up the wishlist for the future – implying that smartphone users are drawn more to features that offer functionality,” said Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch.

Furthermore, recent research from Allied Market Research predicts he global mobile payments industry is set to be worth $3.39 trillion by 2022, with a projected growth of 33.4% from 2016 to 2022.

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