McDonald's serves Java with mobile phone menu

E-payments rolled up in burger menu on RFID phones

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Just over a year after they agreed to work together, NTT DoCoMo and McDonald’s Japan have finally come up with a product using the phone giant’s RFID-equipped handsets.

From today, McD’s customers in the far west of Japan will be able to take part in a trial in which they can both choose and pay for their food using a phone [Japanese, translated]. If it’s deemed successful, McDonald’s says it anticipates a nationwide rollout in 2009.

Software menu

As we’ve seen many times before, the payment part is nothing new, but adding a burger menu to the phone mix is a novel departure. Customers need to first download a Java application to their phones and give it permission to access the RFID chip.

Once that’s done, it’s a simple matter of choosing what they want and swiping the phone on a reader at the McDonald’s counter to put in the order. Naturally, discount coupons are available through the application to ease the decision process.

Finally, payment can be handled either by the e-cash stored in the phone or by using a DoCoMo credit card held on the same chip. Eating the burgers, however, is something the customers have to endure by themselves.

Spam available too

Lunchtime customers at the Tokyo golden arches we popped into seemed lukewarm on the idea. Several were, of course, in too much of a rush to pay and eat, never mind talk to us, but one anonymous woman pointed out a possible problem.

“The food here’s as cheap as it gets anyway - why would I give out my phone information and risk junk mail from McDonald’s just to save a few yen once in a while?” she explained.

Anecdotal evidences says that receiving unwanted marketing emails after signing up by phone for discounts is fast becoming a problem, leading many Japanese to avoid technologies that lead to coupons, such as QR Codes.

Clearly, firms wishing to take advantage of micropayments need to approach their marketing carefully if RFID phones aren’t also to be eyed so suspiciously.