A series of phones going on sale this summer in Japan, for use on NTT DoCoMo’s wireless network, are the world’s first with an embedded computer chip that you can fill up with electronic cash.
The wireless company loaned me a P506iC handset from Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. and I was in business. Well, almost.
First I had to find a machine that’s used to stoke smart cards with cash. They can be found in some convenience stores and offices in Japan. You place the phone in a special slot and slip bills into the machine. The phones have a 50,000-yen ($450) limit.
Now you can spend.
To pay you simply wave your cell phone within a few inches of a special display found in stores, restaurants and vending machines around Japan. A fairy-like tinkling sound means your purchase is being deducted from the embedded chip using radio-frequency ID technology.