Wallet-less Weekend: testing mobile-readiness in Silicon Valley

Mobile Payments Only

This afternoon, I’m feeling inspired by Forbes’ Steven Bertoni‘s “wallet-less day” adventure. As described in his post, Steven went one day without credit cards or cash his wallet, to see if he could survive on solely mobile payment apps.

In admiration of Steven’s experiment, and in awe of Kashmir Hill‘s similar experiment with Bitcoin, I’m going to 1-up Steven and go for the next 3.5-days without cash or credit cards with one exception: I’ll have a card to pay for gas. So, weekend be damned, Fri-Sat-Sun shall reveal how mobile-payments-ready our SF Bay Area really is. Starting..now!

Next week, I’m off to Asia, where cash will be king unless I’m trolling FoodPanda for munchies. It’ll be interesting to see how far mobile payments have come since my last visit in 2011! Full report to follow.. stay tuned!

Mobile Payments Only

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Posted in mobile, mobileapps, payments

Scanbot app falls short of expectations, misses mark

Scanbot

This morning, I posted a note about the launch of Scanbot, a new iOS app that can be used to “scan anything” and store the scanned image for later retrieval. I was hopeful that the new app could bridge the gap between my two receipt capture habits: 1) quick snap to Camera Roll, and 2) more detailed expense capture and receipt upload to Expensify. Unfortunately, my quick test of the app left me disappointed and wanting more.

Scanbot does do some things elegantly:

  • Automatic uploads to your favorite cloud providers: Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, Evernote, OneDrive, and more.
  • Multi-page scans allow you to capture scans of things requiring more than one snap of the camera.
  • Settings give you control over Save behavior and image quality.

However, it’s also got some failing points:

  • Annotations are awkward, at best, to add and manipulate.
  • Annotations are not visible when sharing scans, unless the recipient uses the “Open In..” feature on iOS.
  • Camera guidance (e.g., “Move Closer”, “Don’t Move”) is distracting.

Image

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Posted in mobile, mobileapps

Sending and receiving money: an easy, fragmented delight!

money

In an age where we have everything in our pocket, or within reach, it’s both understandable and amazing how fragmented the peer-to-peer mobile payments space has become. With numerous banks and third-party providers crowding the market, and seemingly little partnership across the board, individuals use different providers, and others have become so confused about the offerings and process that they’ve either tuned out or chosen to operate on a cash-only basis.

Here’s what I do and don’t like about my favorite platforms for sending and receiving money. I’ve ranked the services from my most-to-least preferred:

  • ClearXchange (Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Chase Bank):
    • Likes: Free transfers using only email or telephone number between all Wells Fargo, B of A, and Chase consumer banking customers. Most everyone has one of these banks. Native platform- it’s the bank! Integrated with online banking, no need to provide banking information elsewhere.
    • Dislikes: Given the press and novelty of newer offerings, like Square Cash, peers don’t tend to know about, or utilize, bank transfers.
  • Square Cash:
    • Likes: Easy! Send a quick email or use the mobile app to transfer money. Offered by a reputable, trust worthy company (Square, Inc.).
    • Dislikes: Setup process to link Square to your bank.
  • PayPal:
    • Likes: One of the most recognized and trusted companies for e-commerce. Everyone’s probably already got an account! Intuitive mobile app.
    • Dislikes: Even after all these years, it’s still important to train your friends to specify “Sending money to friends or family” to avoid PayPal fees. Money sits in your PayPal account until you manually transfer it to your bank.
  • Venmo (now owned by eBay):
    • Likes: Venmo Touch, Pay Nearby Friends! More and more people are registering for Venmo everyday- mobile push notifications from my friends say it’s so! Venmo’s adoption into the eBay family, and coupling with the Braintree payments platform, will make it more prevalent.
    • Dislikes: Debit card users “at smaller banks” are charged a fee of 3%, as if they were paying by credit card. Money sits in your Venmo account until you manually “Cash Out” to your bank.
  • PopMoney:
    • Likes: Reputable company (PopMoney is owned by Fiserv). Quick and easy process to send money. Settings allow you to automatically deposit received money into your bank account.
    • Dislikes: Often pay a $1 fee to send money. People are less familiar with PopMoney, making it a less attractive option.
  • Patelco Member-to-Member Transfers:
    • Likes: When transferring money to someone, they can have you put the money directly towards their credit card balance, or deposit it into one of their bank accounts, potentially reducing a step on the receiving end.
    • Dislikes: You can’t setup the service from your mobile device, and there’s a couple-day waiting period for the setup to take effect. Limited to Patelco Members.

One option I have yet to use, since I’m already leveraging the above, is Dwolla. Here’s what I’ve come to learn:

  • Dwolla:
    • Likes: Free for transfers under $10, only $0.25 for anything pricier. Includes payment to vendors, not solely peer-to-peer.
    • Dislikes: I haven’t used Dwolla because there are already a plethora of free options out there for peer-to-peer transfers, and I’ve yet to visit a merchant who was touting Dwolla for payment.

money

I have seen pilot programs like Wells Fargo Labs’ SettleUp Service (a social ‘IOU’ and ‘pay me back’ platform) emerge and disappear due to lack of awareness and demand. Today, we should hope that mainstream platforms like ClearXchange would receive wide press coverage and overwhelming adoption, bringing more users to their platform. After all, the service is free, and most American households use these at least one of these three banks.

As someone who spent over a decade in the banking industry, I am still intrigued by the idea that, in the very near future, the mechanism I choose to send money may become transparent to a recipient. Until then, at least we’ve got plenty of choice, and plenty of opportunity to sway those around us to use our platforms of choice. The downsides of that fragmentation, of course, are you’re spreading your banking information all over the place, and having to use and manage more than one platform.

For the convenience factor and price point (most are free), I’m willing to deal with the fragmentation for a while. And I’ll keep my fingers crossed that we move towards a more unified system!

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Posted in banking, mobileapps, payments, recommended

Create your monetization stack, earn your first billion

It turns out, there is a great way to think about mobile app monetization. Zynga alumnus Xing Wang presents clear guidance on understanding mobile game revenues, giving developers a great mental framework for planning their billion dollar idea and tracking the app’s success over time.

Your Monetization Stack is your treasure map: in short, it illustrates your different revenue streams and demonstrates how each contributes to your app’s financial success. Xing explains, “Think of a monetization stack as a break down of what features/categories that contribute to the [average monthly revenue per user].”

Project teams and developers for all mobile apps, not just games, can benefit by creating a Monetization Stack for their new and existing apps. Reviewing and documenting all sources of potential revenue and then monitoring the respective revenue streams can help teams prioritize features for an MVP and on an ongoing basis. Furthermore, tracing actual revenues back to the Monetization Stack will highlight opportunities for process and product improvement.

So, take a look. The Monetization Stack may be the map that leads you to your first (or next) billion!

Xing Wang - Monetization Stack (Gamasutra)

Xing Wang – Monetization Stack (Gamasutra)

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Posted in mobile, mobileapps, monetization, recommended

Square integrates with more accounting tools, launches software partner program

Highly beneficial Square upgrade that will hopefully drive adoption for more sophisticated sellers!

Gigaom

Following up on similar work with Intuit’s(s intu) QuickBooks last year, Square has integrated its transaction tracking tools with Xero’s accounting software, allowing sales data to flow seamlessly from Square’s digital register into Xero’s spreadsheets. We can expect to see more partnerships like these: Square also launched a new software partner program on Monday, designed to make its sales and inventory tracking tools work better with small business software. Square hasn’t revealed who else it is working with or what other pain points besides accounting the program hopes to address.

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Rdio brings 20 million songs to Google’s Chromecast

Watching Chromecast’s progression from infancy brings me joy. I’ve encouraged many to buy one, given a few out at Christmas, and enjoy casting Hulu and Netflix to the TV! Now if only Google Fiber powered my internet instead of Comcast…

Gigaom

Rdio is the next top-tier name to work with Google’s(s goog) Chromecast streaming stick. On Monday, the music service said its entire 20 million song catalog can be streamed to television through the Chromecast by using the Rdio app on iOS(s aapl) and Android(s goog). Don’t skip a step if you don’t use those platforms though: Rdio says its web client can also be used to stream music to a Chromecast. Using the apps, Rdio users can tune in to their favorite songs or create a personalized station for streaming, along with album art, to a Chromecast.

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Posted in fanboy, mobile, mobileapps, recommended