When will mobile payments finally be the norm?

It seems so simple. You're waiting in line to buy something at the grocery store or your favorite retailer at the mall. You're already on your cell phone, checking Twitter, Facebook, email and your text messages as you wait for the customers in front of you to finish their transactions. Then, when it's your turn to pay, you simply take the smartphone you're already holding and use it to process your transaction. 

The old way of doing things — which is still, in many cases, the current way of doing things — requires consumers to put their phones away and take out their wallets to pay via credit or debit cards. If retailers aren't that technologically advanced they may even still use cash or, even worse, write a check to pay for their goods. This time-consuming process holds up the line and impacts every other customer's shopping experience, so why haven't we evolved completely as a society to adopt mobile payments?

James Wester, the director of global payments research at IDC Financial Insights, believes that we will eventually get there, but it will take some time. He spoke with the New York Times about it earlier this week.

"Mobile payments, it's been the next big thing for three or four rounds of next big thing," he said. "I would say we're probably still three to maybe five years away from seeing mobile payments really common, with most of us using it."

Part of the problem may be security. People are apprehensive about what happens to their money, and for good reason. Merchants can help by ensuring their credit processing software can adapt to manage mobile payments in a manner that is efficient and helps protect sensitive data. 

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