iPhone: Ambassador Of Mobile Commerce?Last week technophiles received a belated Christmas present: News of the latest Apple patent applications. These patents have been fun to speculate about, particularly one from about two years back which described a nifty interface that fueled talk about tablet Macs and touchless iPods – and ended up in the iPhone. What sparked chatter during the recent holidays, however, was the idea of iPhone-driven commerce.

Specifically, the U.S. patent application describes a system that enables customers to place an order at a store using a wireless device like a media player or cellphone, then notifies customers when an order is ready to be picked up. It also talks about a device that maintains data on where individual consumers like to shop and what they tend to buy.

What\’s important about the Apple news isn\’t the existence of such technology. It\’s that Apple is getting North American consumers and marketers to think seriously about \”m-commerce.\” See, the usage of mobile phones to order merchandise and to pay for everything from utility bills to refreshing drinks is old news in places like Korea, Finland, Japan, and other leading mobile markets. Apple\’s offering isn\’t so much innovation as it is a mainstream introduction of such technology to wider U.S. and Canadian markets.

Meanwhile savvy U.S. players in this space have long known the possibilities of mobile retail, mobile coupons, and other m-commerce-related usage of SMS and other cell phone technologies:
* JupiterResearch says eight percent of cell phone customers said they would use mobile coupons in 2008, while experts note that coupons on cell phones can save marketers billions of dollars over their print predecessors.
* As for maintaining demographic and psychographic consumer data based on consumer behavior, platforms like mobileStorm\’s Stun! have been doing this for years.

While Apple will make m-commerce more acceptable to non-technophile minds, it probably won\’t gain a terribly large amount of users on the consumer and marketer ends, since its handsets are too high-priced to embrace a wide demographic. Apple\’s patent news instead will likely help its rivals, by showcasing the endeavors of other handset makers and creators of software and mobile platforms who\’ve long been studying the space and planning their own products.

And that all but ensures greater adoption of mobile retail technologies by consumers and marketers alike.

Eydie Cubarrubia
Marketing Communcations Manager, mobileStorm
\”I\’d rather you text me\”