Octopus to widen reach with phones

The company hopes to soon launch SIM cards to let smartphones be used as payment device

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 March, 2013, 5:05am

This year, in addition to the many roles your smartphone can play, you may be able to add credit card and Octopus card.

Octopus Cards said it hoped to launch within the next few months a SIM card (which identifies a subscriber to a mobile-phone service) that will allow a phone to act as an Octopus card.

By the end of the year, a new SIM card will also allow its users to settle payment for online purchases - made either through the phone or by connecting the phone to a computer.

Sony Xperia and Samsung's S3 and S4 may be the earliest phone models capable of taking the Octopus SIM cards, said the firm's technical director, Sammy Kam. He said Octopus Cards would seek more partners.

Apple's iPhone does not have near-field communications (NFC) technology, which allows handsets to make contactless payments, so it will require an external device to be connected to it to provide it with that capability.

Kam said Octopus Cards was finalising details of charges to subscribers with various mobile network operators. It is also in talks with various online shopping platforms about whether they will accept Octopus cards as a means of payment.

Octopus Cards, the earliest provider of contactless payment services in the city, faces intense competition from banks and telecommunication operators seeking to expand their electronic payment platforms with NFC.

HSBC is working with Apple and Visa to allow settlement of credit card payments with iPhones. Hang Seng Bank announced late last year it was co-operating with MasterCard, Samsung and PCCW Mobile to provide a similar service. Both projects are expected to roll out during the first half of this year.

Citibank is also said to be working on a deal with Hutchison Whampoa and its mobile network operator 3 Hong Kong to apply the technology on Android smartphones and iPhones.

Meanwhile, 500 taxis in Hong Kong have been fitted with Octopus card readers. Amin Ng, the firm's general manager of China business, said several hundred more might be added this year, but a one-day delay in payment settlement has made it unpopular. To boost usage, Octopus will raise the rebate it gives drivers to HK$5 per transaction from HK$3.