Little interest among U.S. consumers for mobile wallets

Despite all the talk, only 21% want a smartphone with an NFC chip to make mobile payments, survey finds

Only 21% of U.S. consumers say they want to buy a smartphone equipped with a Near-Field Communication chip for mobile payments, according to a survey.

The Retrevo Pulse survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers of all ages found that of the remaining 79% of those surveyed, 53% were simply uninterested in owning a phone with a mobile wallet capability, and 26% didn't know what NFC or a mobile wallet is.

The results show that mobile wallet providers "have a challenge ahead," wrote Andrew Eisner, director of community and content for, a consumer electronics review and shopping site. The survey was conducted by an independent panel for Retrevo in June, Retrevo officials said.

"Even for the mobile wallet optimists, the NFC glass is only a quarter full," Eisner wrote. Taking into account the margin of error of 4 percentage points, he added: "The fact is, only around 25% of consumers would like to buy things with a mobile wallet and are waiting for that capability to be in their next cell phone."

He noted that younger consumers want mobile wallets more than those 50 or older. Fully 75% of those 50 and older don't want a mobile wallet, although only 28% of 18 to 35-year-olds expressed strong interest in having one, Eisner said.

Eisner said the study suggested that the reluctance over mobile wallets could be due to worries over security and privacy. Nearly half of those not interested in the mobile wallet said they wouldn't trust any of the companies being suggested to handle mobile wallets, including credit-card companies, wireless carriers and companies like Google and Apple, which have their own mobile operating systems.

Google announced recently it is spearheading a Google Wallet initiative based on NFC-ready Android phones with Citi, Sprint and others.

Meanwhile, rumors persist that the next iPhone, which some have called the iPhone 4S, could include an NFC chip to be used to make contactless payments at NFC terminals in stores and other locations.

The survey also found that iPhone owners are more enthusiastic about having a mobile wallet from Apple (61%) than Android owners who would want to use a Google wallet (46%).

Eisner concluded that the marketing departments of the various mobile wallet providers "have their work cut out for them to overcome resistance to mobile wallets."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is

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