Can You Survive on Phone Alone?

October 27, 2014

[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”500"] Photo Credit: zampano!!! via Compfightcc[/caption]

Can you survive with your phone and nothing else? No, I’m not talking about laptops and tablets. Literally, what would you do if you lost your wallet, keys and bags only to be left with your phone?

It may seem like a silly exercise, but no doubt you’ll walk out of your house one morning and lock yourself out. Cellphone in hand, what can you do?


For a long time, I joked that if I lost my wallet, I would survive on Starbucks alone. They have the top mobile wallet and significant transaction volume. The table to the right shows the growth of their mobile app. Click on the image for an article about their volume. As of Summer 2014, 15% of payments at all Starbucks occurred through the mobile app.

Google Wallet and Apple Pay

The genesis of this post is the non-stop talk of Apple’s new Pay platform. By stores enabling Apple Pay, they are also adding Google Wallet functionality. Interesting that Apple’s push into payments will also help Google and other NFC based payment platforms.

Take the Train

On this morning’s ride to work on Chicago’s El Train, I decided to try to use Google Wallet to pay my fare. Other than charging me $5 instead of $2.50 (presumably it gives me a $2.50 credit for my ride home), it worked perfectly.

In the event that I need to survive on phone alone, I can ride Chicago’s Public Transportation.

Whole Foods, Panera, and Others

In preparation for Apple Pay, Whole Foods, Panera, and others have installed new payment terminals which allow for NFC payments whether you’re an Apple or Android user. All of my Whole Foods checkout lanes support it and most of the checkout lines at Panera support it. (It appears they just didn’t have room for the new payment terminal in the last checkout line.)

Plenty of food options exist.


Walgreens was the first store I tried Google Wallet with about a year or so ago. Worked perfectly. Today, it is one of the few drug stores where you can make an NFC payment. As of this writing, CVS and RiteAid have disabled NFC payments in favor of their soon-to-be released mobile wallet.

In sickness and in health, phone works.

The Future of Mobile Wallets and Survival

Google Wallet has been around a while. There are a bunch of startups working on this problem as well. There is plenty of buzz that Apple Pay will change the mobile wallet playing field. Ultimately it comes down to convenience and loyalty. With the example above, I rarely think about pulling my phone out instead of my wallet. It’s good to know what works if my wallet fails.

The exception is Starbucks. Their loyalty program encourages me to use the mobile app instead of my wallet. So while Apple Pay or Google Wallet is novel today, until it becomes a rewards program or provides some incentive to use it over my wallet, it will be only be in my survival kit.