Asia Pacific leads strong growth in mobile payments

North America lags behind regions using simpler technology like SMS and text messages

Mobile payment technology continues to rapidly gain ground around the world, with Gartner Inc. projecting 55% more mobile payment users this year than in 2009.

Gartner said the biggest growth areas for mobile payments are not developed areas like the U.S., but in places like the Middle East and Africa. Users in the latter regions rely on simpler technology, such as Short Message Service or texting, Gartner analyst Sandy Shen said today.

Also, there are many users in developing markets who don't have easy access to banks or desktop computers, making them prime candidates to use phones and other mobile devices to pay bills and complete banking functions, said Shen.

SMS is the dominant mobile payment technology, Shen said. Web access from a mobile device is also used, but primarily in developed areas of the world where there are far more users of data-capable phones and carriers that sell data plans.

Shen said that Near Field Communications, where a mobile user waves a phone over a wireless receiver connected to a pay station or terminal to make a payment, hasn't caught on because financial institutions face the complexity of dealing with wireless carriers to make the service work.

Gartner said that 70 million people worldwide used mobile payment methods in 2009; the number is projected to grow by 55% to 108.6 millon this year.

The smallest region by users, North America, will increase from 1.9 million users to 3.5 million in 2010, while the largest region, Asia/Pacific, will grow from 41 million to nearly 63 million in 2010.

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