How did mobile payments go mainstream?

There are 938.2 million mobile payment users worldwide1, and by 2022, it’s set to become the second most common payment method after debit cards.2

Our phones actively encourage us to abandon cash, with apps like Apple Pay and app-only banks like Monzo and Starling Bank. This means lower cart abandonment, more secure payments with biometrics, and the ability for customers to buy through websites and social media, on-the-go or at home.

It’s been a long journey towards mobile payments going mainstream, so how did we get here?

The beginning A world where cash & cards dominate

The world of cash and cheques may seem a distant memory, but it wasn’t too long ago that the rise of the credit card was the biggest gamechanger in technology. We cast our minds back to the defining moments before mobile payments came to the fore.

What does the future hold for mobile payment innovation? Download our report to find out

1990: The first alternative to cash - the cheque - peaked in volume, with 11 million cheques being issued each day in the UK. In fact, if all the cheques that went through the clearing system in 1990 were laid end-to-end, they would stretch 12 times around the world.4
1950: The Diners Club Card becomes first credit card in widespread use.
1973: The first handheld mobile phone call was made by Motorola engineer Martin Cooper from Sixth Avenue in New York to his rival Joe Engel of Bell Laboratories at AT&T. The first mobile phone gave the user 30 minutes of talk time and took 10 hours to recharge.3
1990: Plastic card payments tripled in this decade, cash withdrawals doubled and there was a 75% increase in direct debits, standing orders and other automated payments.5

The PioneersThirsty? Time to start a mobile payment revolution

Ten years before the invention of the iPhone, few spotted the value in mobile payments. Who were the first to take the plunge?

What does the future hold for mobile payment innovation? Download our report to find out

In 1997, the first internet banking service is introduced by Nationwide
In 1999, Ericsson and Telenor Mobil enable customers to purchase movie tickets with their mobile phones
In 1998, PayPal is founded

The Early AdoptersEnterprising brands spot the value in mobile over wallet

As mobile innovations started to appear, from downloadable ringtones to contactless payments, who were the first to see their potential?

What does the future hold for mobile payment innovation? Download our report to find out

…the Crazy Frog ringtone outsells Coldplay in the charts by 113,000 copies
In 2005, debit cards overtake cash as the most popular method of payment on the high street and…
In 2000, in sub-Saharan Africa, swapping mobile phone credits begins to replace cash, leading to the creation of mobile phone-based money transfer service M-Pesa

The Innovators and acceleratorsCustomer experience propels mobile payment adoption

In 2011, Starbucks launched their first mobile payment product, years ahead of other payment systems. An instant hit, its adoption is now six times that of Apple Pay7 – so how did it convince customers to ditch the cash and cards?

What does the future hold for mobile payment innovation? Download our report to find out

In 2011, Girl Scouts use GoPayment devices on their phones so customers can buy cookies without cash
“Cash has remained essential in certain instances, like paying back a colleague for lunch or buying a beer at a cash-only bar. These new mobile payment technologies could finally change that.”

The New York Times, 2010
In 2007, the iPhone launches, described as a ‘gamechanger’ for the industry

Mainstream adoptionJumping on the mobile bandwagon

In 2014, Taco Bell launches a pre-pay mobile ordering app, named its “biggest innovation since the drive-thru”
In 2016, Amazon launches Amazon Go, its checkout-less supermarkets
In 2015, Shell launches its ‘Fill Up and Go’ app for petrol payment

Present dayThe innovation in full force

With 1 billion monthly users15, social media platform Instagram is an example of a brand that’s changing the way we shop on our phones and in the real world. With the ‘checkout feature’ launching in 2017, its evolution from social network to mobile’s biggest retail store is well underway. Here, we explore its influence and reach.

What does the future hold for mobile payment innovation? Download our report to find out

In 2019, the average person spends 3 hours 15 minutes on their phone a day16
49% of website traffic comes from mobile devices18
79% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the last six months17