22nd March 2012
PayPal Here: The smartphone cash register in your pocket
By Nigel Brown

What does 'PayPal Here' mean for the future of mobile payments?

“We’re actually going after offline business in a serious way,” says David Marcus, Vice-President of mobile at PayPal.

The gauntlet has been laid down by online payment innovators PayPal as they launched a mobile credit card reader that enables on-the-fly transactions at small businesses, traders, and even market stalls worldwide.

‘PayPal Here,’ designed by Yves Behar’s fuseproject agency consists of a blue triangular reader which plugs into a smartphone’s standardised audio jack, while an app on your phone is used to control it. The innovative device is set to go head to head with Square and Google Wallet in the coming months, with the future for online and offline payments still a hot topic of discussion.

The mobile payment competition

PayPal has led the charge online of making encrypted payments part of the mainstream e-commerce environment, boasting over 100 million customers worldwide in over 25 different countries. But it now faces competition from Twitter creator Jack Dorsey’s Square, that handles $4 bn (£2.5 bn) worth of online transactions every year, despite being a US only product.However Paypal charges a 2.7% cut for each credit card swiped, slightly undercutting Square’s 2.75% rate.

The Google Wallet that stores a consumer’s credit card information on the cloud is also a major competitor –  technology that essentially turns your mobile phone into a remote payment system. Its appeal has been restricted however as it only works with one smartphone brand and one network over 140,000 locations in the USA.

Chairman of the Digital Money Forum, Dave Birch believes change is at hand when it comes to the future of money. He told Humans Invent that there are simply too many offline and online alternatives.

“This future of money is probably closer than you think. The cheque is hanging on by its fingernails and notes and coins are less than three per cent of the Sterling out there. Just think about how you use money today. You pay a couple of bills on the internet, use your web banking to send your mate the £20 you owe him.

“You use your debit card most of the time. When the pub won’t take cards, it’s a pain in the backside to have to go to a cash machine and pay a couple of quid to get notes out. When you fancy a cold drink on the station the bloody coin slot is always jammed or you’ve never got the right change. You can’t get a discount on your phone bill for paying in cash, you only get that for direct debit. And you can’t send a fiver by e-mail. Cash doesn’t work. It’s time for a change.”

What is ‘Paypal here’?

The ‘PayPal here’ system will initially be used by a few thousand merchants in the US, Hong Kong, Canada and Australia, accepting most major credit and debit cards. The built in scanning feature also uses a smartphone camera for payments by cheque.

“Most payment transactions are disconnected and confusing, with ‘Paypal Here’ we sought to create an ecosystem where all elements are clear, simple, consistent and a pleasure to use,” Fuseproject explained on their blog. “The Here logo, iconography, packaging and device follow an arrow-like form that references the physical world where payments happen one-on-one, and also the virtual cloud world that enables these new forms of payments. The arrow is an ancient symbol that shows something being done in the here and now, and became the inspiration for the shape of the of the product, logo, web, graphics, naming and application sound design. In the PayPal Here experience the arrow also represents easy payment. It expresses how each swipe sends your transaction onward to the cloud.”

The American based company is excited by the functionality and ease-of-use of the product, with the hope that it will speed up sales to customers for smaller retailers.

“Functionally a large card stripe reader dictated the wide base of the arrow, while the offset surface layer on the card reader easily identifies the credit card swiping track for the user”, Fuseproject continued on their blog. “The front triangle is also an innovative drop down lock that prevents swivel or pivot when one swipes a card. The width of the device track fits perfectly on a smartphone while ensuring enough of the card is read for a successful transaction every time. The product and application experience is further enhanced by sound design when the swiper is inserted in a phone, or when a transaction is complete.”

The design is made from recycled material, with the aim for the little triangle to act as PayPal’s launch pad into the offline world.

“The Here shipper is a smart corrugated triangular box, made of a recycled corrugated material that insures robustness and flexibility when sent through the mail to customers. It includes an iconic Here sticker that becomes a recognizable icon for the Here service. PayPal Here does more than accept payments – through its distinct design and brand ecosystem it serves as a brand flag for PayPal in the everyday real world.”

What is the future for money?

The announcement from eBay’s online payments arm opens up the debate once more for the future of mobile payment technology, and also the future of money. Will your mobile become your one-stop shop wallet and multimedia centre? It seems that is the way we are heading but is this what we want? And are there other alternatives on the horizon? In the meantime, look out for a ‘PayPal here’ sign in the late spring and summer when the little purple triangle looks set to hit the UK.

Watch PayPal Here in action:

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