mBlox, but there is a good chance that it has served them at least once in their life. MBlox is a text aggregation company that handles a lion's share of text messages worldwide, having touched on nearly 95% of users cellphones across the globe at one point or another. MBlox is also helping to shape the nature of mobile payments in the digital and physical realms.Most consumers probably do not know about a company called
The story of how mBlox envisions mobile payments is best told through the app for Premier League soccer star Rio Ferdinand. The center back for the Manchester United is at the tail end of his career but his earning power has perhaps never been higher.
This is the second installation in ReadWriteWeb's series on mobile payments. See the first segment, How Mobile Payments Will Evolve In The Next Several Years.
Just A Normal App
The "#5" (Ferdinand's number) app was built in four weeks for Android and released in May. The iOS app was released in October and its grand unveiling was several weeks ago during a Fox Sports broadcast of a Premier League game in the U.S. Ferdinand's expects that nearly $120 million will be made for Ferdinand's brand partners, either through the specific app or other digital endeavors.
The app is like any other celebrity vanity app. It is aimed towards the fans to give them an inside look into the player's day-to-day life. There are videos of Ferdinand and other soccer stars playing video games and walking around town. It has social engagement layers and the ability for geo-fencing so mBlox knows who has the app is attending an United game.
"The application is a 'focus intelligent content offering' - what it means is that it creates a brand2one relation. It is relevant and creates the brand engagement. In this case it is 'Rio's fans' and Rio. The application is satisfying the 'community interest,'" a mBlox spokesperson said.
While the #5 app has some interesting functionality (such as some offline data caching to watch videos without data connectivity), the app itself is nothing groundbreaking. It does everything from a front and back end perspective that users and administrators would expect. It has a location layer mixed with social engagement and provides analytics that can be acted upon.
A System For Mobie Payments
"We aim to build payments into mobile instead of building mobile into payments," said mBlox CEO Andrew Dark in a recent interview.
The Ferdinand app can accept payments in a variety of ways - direct to carrier billing, charge to credit/debit card, PayPal and other payment systems. The way Dark sees it, the user should not have to be forced into any proprietary format. Basically, the threshold for making a payment should be extremely low.
The payments industry calls this "pain points," the spot in the transaction process where the user has to perform and action often coinciding outside the normally expected realm of behavior. The brands that support Ferdinand's app want it to be as easy as possible for people to pay.
Users are used to being funneled into one type of proprietary system or another. Whether it be Apple's iTunes payment store, Google Checkout, Amazon's One-Click billing, direct carrier billing or PayPal. The idea for mBlox is to set up a mobile wallet where various types of payments will accepted without having to think about it. Its PayMobile program is much like Amazon's billing service but allows users to pay with either direct carrier billing or a pay-as-you-go credit card without entering personally identifiable information into the process. Those avenues are specifically designed to eliminate pain points, especially targeted towards younger consumers that tend to be the ones making smaller payments through apps.
Outside of the Ferdinand app, mBlox is working on building intelligent capabilities into mobile wallets and make the process secure across different types of goods. Whether that is paying for a train ticket or parking with a smartphone or purchasing digital goods through an app.
"We believe there is a false crusade for one-size-fits-all in mobile payments," Dark said.
In the United Kingdom, this is where mobile payments will be going, steering users away from pain points to make the barrier for payments lower. Oddly, it took a soccer player to show the way.