Micropayments using cell phones is a great idea, but I see I'm not the only one who thinks Paypal's solution is an underwhelming mess, especially when much better solutions are right on the horizon.
I've been beta testing a mobile money solution for a few weeks now from a startup called Obopay, and from what I've seen it's a much smarter solution than what TextPayMe offers, or even the service that Paypal is preparing to offer.
It's really all about creating a robust, simple to use solution, and using text messages for mobile payments is not it. The Obopay service I've been using has its own little java app that has simple menu commands like "Pay", "Request Pay" and "Check Balance" "See History" which creates a nice streamlined interface from which to send money around. The difference is like using a Windows or a Macintosh vs. DOS or a Command Line Interface. Having an application makes all of the difference in easy of use and utility.
Combined with a linked debit card I can spend the money in my Obopay account anywhere that MasterCard is accepted, or take money from any ATM instally, as soon as someone sends me money. Also, the Obopay mobile application is perfect for someone like me who often sends medium sized increments of money around to people like my friends and family, but doesn't require me to use an ATM or hassle with carrying around cash. It's a lot like the Paypal web service, except you can access it anywhere you are and it doesn't have any of the clutter, it's just a simple pay and be paid service for my cell phone.
I've already used this service to loan money to my mother-in-law (who is also a beta tester) as well as let my boyfriend pay the check at restaurants while I send him the exact amount for my half of the bill. I can really see this sort of thing revolutionizing the way I handle money, especially if enough people get onboard.
I think that mobile payment services like Obopay's have a lot of potential to replace a good chunk transactions involving cash. At the very least it's going to put companies like Western Union out of business (who the heck wants to send money for a ridiculous fee from fixed locations when they can do it from their cell phones for practically nothing?), but I also think it's going to replace the vast majority of cash transactions since the cell phone is such a ubiquitous platform; literally everyone and their grandmother has a cell phone which is all you need to send/receive money instantly.
Looking ahead, I'm glad I'll have my Obo phone with me when I go to Europe in a month since I won't need to freak out about getting emergency cash if I need it, I can just get my parents to send me money and I'll have it in my account seconds later.