Making a Mobile Payment is like Floating in the Dead Sea

Posted by Kate Jurras on Fri, Apr 27, 2012

steffanb resized 600This is the tenth post in our mobile blog series. Throughout the month of April we'll be featuring posts from some of Boston's most expert thought leaders, answering these questions: "What's happening in mobile right now? What's coming soon?” This post is by Steffan Berelowitz. Steffan is CEO of Bluetrain Mobile, a software platform that helps businesses create custom mobile websites. He’s a serial entrepreneur, web consultant, and now train conductor. In the past 19 years, Steffan has founded 3 companies in online technology, and all are in business today.

From time to time, when I was growing up, I would see the occasional photograph of someone floating in the Dead Sea. Inevitably, this iconic image would feature someone lying back and holding up a newspaper. For anyone who has seen these pictures, you know exactly what is supposed to happen when you put down your towel, take off your sandals, and stroll into the Dead Sea water – you float.

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I had the opportunity to experience it first hand on a trip to Israel in the summer of 2006. It was a brutally hot July day, the air was dense and humid, and I took my first step into the sea. The water is thick and oily, and perhaps that was the first sign that something unusual was about to happen. (The salt concentration in the Dead Sea is about 33% compared to about 3-5% in a normal ocean.) As I walked further into the water, I could feel the buoyancy taking over. Sure enough, a few moments later it was deep enough to lie back.

At that moment, something completely unexpected happened. Although I thought I was prepared, having seen pictures of people floating in the Dead Sea, it was a surprise!  Yes, I knew what was going to happen, and I thought I knew what it would be like, but then when I actually experienced it myself, it was a complete shock.

Fast forward six years later, and I found myself standing in the Area Four coffeehouse, located in the techy area of Cambridge, in the shadow of Google’s office.  Little did I know, I was about to have my first mobile payment experience.

I was innocently perusing a bagel.

Just as I was about to pay, I spotted the LevelUp pay station by the cash register. Having recently seen one of my friends pay with the service, I had set up an account (you do this by entering your credit card information on the app), but I hadn’t used it yet. I opened the LevelUp app, and I tentatively held it in front of the pay station.

At no point up to this moment did I expect anything unusual to happen. We read about mobile payments every day, and we know that in the future this will likely be the predominant way that we pay for goods and services.

So it was with this casual attitude that I held my phone in front of the LevelUp pay station and watched it change from red to bright green. And that was it – it was over in a flash.

I felt a feeling of freedom from my wallet, cash, credit card, and convention. The whole experience felt, well how can I best put it… completely new. Although I’ve read about mobile payments a great deal in recent months, I have now completed one. I immediately felt the inevitability of this medium.

I grabbed my bagel and sat down. A few seconds later I received a text message with my receipt and some rewards information telling me how much I saved by using LevelUp and telling me how much I might save in the future.

If you're one of the many who, like me until recently, have not yet made a mobile payment, I would encourage you to give it a try.  Here are some interesting facts and statistics about mobile payments and some options for how to get started.

Mobile Payments Vendors to Check Out:

Stats, Facts & Research on Mobile Payments:

Image Credit: Milner Moshe, Government Press Office