Amid on-going delays for the UK mobile network operators' Project Oscar NFC joint venture, O2 has moved ahead with the launch of a mobile wallet that offers a suite of payments and marketing services to any mobile phone user, regardless of the carrier they get their mobile service from — with NFC to arrive later.
O2 has launched the O2 Wallet, a long-planned suite of mobile payments and marketing services that is available to any UK mobile phone user and works with the majority of smartphones as well as Apple iPads. "Even those without a smartphone can use various features of O2 Wallet — for example Money Messages — providing they have web browsing capability on their handsets," says O2.
The service available today allows users to send and receive money, compare prices, receive special offers and shop online with their mobile phone, but doesn't include support for NFC.
That is set to be launched "in time", says O2, with availability likely to coincide with the commercial launch of Project Oscar, the planned NFC joint venture between Vodafone, Telefónica O2 and Everything Everywhere which is currently undergoing an in-depth investigation by the European competition authorities.
Key features of the O2 Wallet available today include:
- Money Message: O2 Wallet users can transfer money to any UK mobile phone number "as easily as sending a text". Money Messages allow consumers to make daily transfers of between £1 and £500 and "will make lending, borrowing or repaying money to friends and family easier than ever", says O2.
- My Offers: Users will receive "unique daily discounts and deals" via a 'My Offers' icon on the O2 Wallet. "At launch these will include discounts and money off offers from retailers such as Debenhams, Comet, Sainsbury's Direct, and Tesco Direct," says O2.
- Mobile shopping: A barcode reader and search engine function "compares the prices of millions of branded goods from more than 100 online retailers."
- Load money: Users can load money onto the O2 Wallet account from any debit card, by receiving a Money Message or by making a cash transfer at any of more than 30,000 locations across the UK.
- Transaction history: O2 Wallet users get a text alerts whenever their account balance changes, a 30 day payment history on the app and a 12 month history online.
- O2 Money Account Card: A virtual and a physical Visa contactless, prepaid card account that can be used to make purchases online and in stores.
As well as NFC, additional functionality will soon be added to enable consumers to use O2 Wallet to top-up mobile airtime and buy train tickets, the carrier says.
O2 Wallet has been developed by a team of 250 people as well as a number of technology and business partners: e-payments provider Wave Crest, banking and payment technology provider FIS, digital banking solutions provider Intelligent Environments, contactless card maker Giesecke & Devrient, e-money license and BIN sponsorship provider IDT Financial Services, product search and promotion provider Cogenta and Visa Europe.
"O2 Wallet delivers the benefits of mobile money to more UK consumers than any other product or service currently available," says James Le Brocq, managing director of O2 Money. "With O2 Wallet, it's easier to transfer money, track expenditure and pay swiftly and securely, all using your mobile. We believe it will transform the way people manage their finances and spend money.
"We recognise that security is absolutely key," Le Brocq adds. "O2 Wallet has been trialled internally for months and has undergone extensive 'stress-testing' with security experts. In addition to PINs and passwords, all personal details and financial data are held on remote central servers rather than on the mobile device itself. This, we believe, is the safest and most secure way to deliver mobile payment services."