Americans greet mobile payments with a yawn

Mobile phones sticking out of pocket

While Google Wallet and other app-happy vendors race to put mobile cell phone payment in the palm of every American, a new survey finds that most of us couldn't care less, at least so far.

Lightspeed Research surveyed 10,000 credit card customers, including some 2,400 smartphone users, and found that half of those with smartphones described the ability to make mobile payments as "very unimportant" to them.

Only 15% of those surveyed said mobile payment was very or somewhat important.

The findings came as no surprise to the mobile payments world.

They're well aware that Americans already enjoy four forms of mobile payment -- cash, check, credit and debit card -- and most have yet to acquire a smartphone, much less ask it to do much more than display Angry Birds.

It's not like we're still lugging around oxen to buy lunch.

But the survey may cause some banks that are investing in mobile infrastructure to pause, however briefly, and wonder whether that golden sunrise up ahead when their technology catches up to our mobility will cause an iPhone-like consumer frenzy or a ginormous shrug of the shoulders.

The race to mobile phone payment began years ago when cell phones were still the size of a 14DD Air Jordan.

Wi-Fi, tap-and-go NFC (near-field communication), smart (chip) credit cards and RFID (radio frequency identification) all forged pathways (and some blind alleys) to the Holy Grail of pay-by-phone.

But those times, for the most part, were flush; these times, you might have noticed, are not. And surveys like this one have to make a cash-strapped banker wonder whether they're now throwing good money after bad.

The mobile-ites maintain that if they build it, the masses will come.

Look at Apple -- nobody cared much about iPhones (or Angry Birds) until they could actually purchase one.

And history is certainly on their side. Relatively few Americans owned credit cards before the 1980s, when suddenly everybody did.

But that's because paying by card was much easier than writing a check.

It remains to be seen whether paying by cell phone will offer a similar leap in convenience.

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