Version 2.7 of PayPal's iPhone app
has added a the capability of depositing a check by taking a picture of it with your phone: no trip to the ATM. Of course, the check ends up in your PayPal account, not your bank account, and will take up to a week to process. Still, given how many sites - and increasingly, real-world stores - accept PayPal, this is a major step forward in making your iPhone your wallet.
You sign the check as you normally do, then take a picture of the front and the back with your phone. The app uses the images to submit the check wirelessly to the same clearing process used in scanner-equipped ATMs, and after it clears it is added to your PayPal balance without any fees being taken out for the service. PayPal says to hang onto your physical check for two weeks, though… just in case. “Our concept is that you basically carry around access to your wallet in your phone,” PayPal’s vice president of platform and mobile Osama Bedier told the Wall Street Journal
. “The mobile phone is the first computer that lets you take the Internet with you,” he added. PayPal has been working hard to add flexibility to their iPhone app: ever since 2.0 you've been able to transfer money to another PayPal user by bumping phones
: the accelerometer registers the bump and sends it to PayPal's server, which verifies the other phone by comparing the time and the GPS locations of the two devices.
The basic idea is not a new one: USAA has had a similar app
for over a year ago, and Chase
recently rolled out their own. USAA, which doesn't have real-world locations, also allows you to scan checks from home and submit them over the Internet. However, PayPal's size and reach means that a lot more people will be able to take advantage of this payment system, which will spread acceptance of the idea of getting paid, as well as paying, through your iPhone.
PayPal's Bedier also told the Journal
that they are looking at replacing all kinds of transactions with smartphone apps, like avoiding the need to type in your sixteen-digit credit card number every time you want to make a purchase. "Consumers hate entering things into phones," he said, and so PayPal is looking at a way to use the camera to scan in your number and expiration date so that you can add to your account balance or make a payment through PayPal. "The camera is a great way to avoid the text entry process," he said.