Phone wallet functionality has been going strong in Asia for some time now. But here in the U.S. of A. it's still a wish list item—or at least it used to be. Last week the folks from Obopay dropped by to show off their new app, which lets you access and transfer money from mobile phones. This is not a digital wallet—the money is not stored in the phone—and it's not RFID-based either. You download the Obopay app onto your phone (they demo'd it on Cingular but say it will work with most all of the major phone models and carriers). Then you go to the Obopay website and load up your account with moolah. The money becomes available to your phone almost immediately, and after that you can send money from your phone to anyone else who has Obopay installed on their phone as well. The transfer only takes about a minute. The Obopay bank takes .10 cents for every transaction.
More details after the jump...
The interface is simple and intuitive. Once inside the Obopay app you can scroll through your address book and choose the person you want to send money to. A PIN number is required before making the transaction, and you can add a message too.
Each account comes with a MasterCard debit card, which you can take straight to an ATM and use to make a withdrawal from your phone. There is no annual fee associated with the card (for now). The card is essential because there are no merchants at all who accept Obopay. The backers of this service are hoping that will change soon, and plan to make the tech available on the BREW network for people to customize and whatnot.
There are still some fun to be had with Obopay in the short term. The most obvious example is as a way to split the lunch bill. One person pays in cash, everyone else at the table sends Obopay. Wagering? You betcha. Ransom notes with phonecam photos attached, why not? At this point there is no upper limit to the transfer and, since the service's cut is only ten cents, larger sums are smarter.
Obopay is sure to have some competitors who are larger and better bankrolled. And there are plenty of fraud issues to be solved (stolen credit card laundering, for example). But kudos to them for being first out of the gate with an official announcement today. And there is something very appealing about the person-to-person nature of these transactions. The Obopay app will be available for download starting April 15.
Obopay [Product Page]