Circle has announced it now supports NFC payments from its Android app. Joining other mobile wallets such as Hive, Mycelium, and LazyPay in using this technology, all are hoping to drive the acceptance of Bitcoin payments at the cash-register by increasing the convenience for users and merchants.
Announcing the news on the Circle Blog yesterday, the digital wallet and payment platform has joined an increasing number of mobile digital currency wallets that are seeking to replicate the ease with which shoppers are used to making payments in physical stores. In Europe there are more than 100 million contactless payment cards in circulation, almost half of which are in the UK, where users can shop and even use the London transport network with their wireless bank card. By offering a similar level of ease to make a digital currency payment in a physical store, start-ups like Circle are bringing Bitcoin technology more in-line with the expectations of everyday shoppers.
The ability to use this technology in a physical retailer does however depend on a few logistical steps on the part of the merchant involved too. Beyond the absolute issue of accepting Bitcoin as a valid form of payment, the merchant will require an NFC enabled payment system designed to cope with these transactions. Both Bitpay. XBTerminal, and the upcoming LazyPay currently have merchant apps capable of this, with Bitpay keen to show off their NFC compatibility with the Mycelium app, but integration with existing point-of-sale hardware and end-of-day accounting software is not guaranteed and could represent a headache for those accepting Bitcoin payments.
Danial Daychopan founder of LazyPay, also believes in the importance of NFC technology in potentially driving Bitcoin acceptance further into the mainstream. Speaking to Cointelegraph he explained that,
"Quick, contactless payments with NFC technology have sped up the checkout process – and are popular with people using traditional credit and debit cards. To drive adoption of in-person Bitcoin payments, it’s vital that we also make paying with digital currencies effortless for shoppers”.
The LazyPay team are preparing to launch their own consumer-merchant payment app with NFC in the coming weeks, with news emerging on their Twitter here. Daychopan went on to add that:
“With LazyPay, our merchant payment app, we’ve made it really easy for people to buy goods in-store with Bitcoin, and a lot cheaper for merchants. Any technology that makes it faster to transact will only help the digital currency industry”.
If Circle is able to make this jump from Bitcoin being an often tricky and complicated payment form, dogged by QR codes and lengthy waiting times, to the slick user experience consumers have come to expect, then their ambition of a “move from the early adopters into more mainstream users” is brought a step closer.
One hurdle currently faced by all of the mobile wallets offering NFC payments however, is Apple's continued block on developer use of the technology built into the iPhone 6, Apple Watch, and newest iPad offerings. In an attempt to bolster their own ApplePay payments service, Apple has at least temporarily shut off access to the NFC chip that allows the close proximity payments system on the iOS system, meaning that Circle's upgraded app is only for Android users.
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