Users Have Choice When Paying By Phone, But Will They Do It?


My first experience with Square was at the Brooklyn Flea last winter when I decided to purchase a bracelet and the vendor promptly took out his iPhone and Square (and accepted my AMEX!).

What PayPal is on the verge of is interesting for a couple reasons. First, it brings the first major sign of competition to the market for mobile payments with PayPal Here (some have argued that ROAM is a Square competitor, but it doesn’t seem to operate in a remotely comparable fashion); Second, and with less immediate association or impact to Square, PayPal is bringing the digital wallet to the brick and mortar store. The question is whether or not you’ll use it.

PayPal Here is intriguing for a couple reasons.  For starters, it’s designed by Yves Behar of Fuseproject whose work has long been on the product design A-list.  While I am a huge fan of Behar’s work in the early 2000s, PayPal Here looks clunky and a little overzealous in its attempt to embody a card swiping action in its fanned triangle shape.  The arrows seem on the verge of falling off and taking the entire functionality of the device with them. Aesthetically, long live Square!

But on a broader, conceptual level, PayPal’s hope to “become a full-on electronic wallet” ( offers both more long-term promise and more likelihood for confusion in its overall UX.  Essentially, PayPal will offer flexibility in how you pay for things collating all your “digital bits” of money (to include everything but your cash money) into a pool of available funds that will be managed and most efficiently spent via PayPal for whatever goods or services you’re buying.  In addition to that, they want to bring this sort of robust digital wallet off the Web and into stores – but how are they going to accomplish this?  Through an app?

The only app I can most easily associate this to is the Starbucks App, which I happen to use on a daily basis.  But it doesn’t manage my money, and it only works for my Starbucks purchases.

From payment grace periods, to management of all your accounts, to budgeting, to “swiping” your PayPal at the local Home Depot, perception and conceptual understanding will be the biggest hurdle PayPal is going to face. I’m not opposed to changing the mindset on that fat brick of credit cards, cash, old receipts and outdated business cards that makes most men sit lopsided (  I’ll just be interested to see it in real life application.

I’ve found through our studies about mobile commerce (whether through an app or optimized mobile site, tablet or phone), that the majority of Users are far from ready to take the leap into full-blown mobile purchasing. The overwhelming reaction to the experience splits into two areas:

  • the perception that transacting via phone or tablet is less safe than a computer and
  •  that there is a higher likelihood for error when purchasing from mobile rather than desktop or laptop.

In studies where we have observed the checkout process, the perceived security of PayPal seems to become less and less of a factor as Users who do mobile transactions feel comfortable using their credit cards.