Mobile phone maker Nokia on Wednesday announced the launch of a financial service called Nokia Money, designed to let consumers pay bills and merchants and send money to friends and family using their cell phones.
Nokia believes the service will help people in the U.S. and in emerging markets who are not served by banks or other traditional financial outlets.
"In many countries, mobile phone ownership significantly exceeds bank account usage, suggesting that many mobile phone users have very limited or no access to basic financial services," said Mary McDowell, Nokia's chief development officer.
The new service may find a special niche in the U.S., which has lagged behind countries such as Japan in the ability to pay for items on the fly through a cell phone.
"Rural consumers will particularly benefit from money transfers and, for urban consumers used to online services, we are enabling services such as payment of utility bills, purchase of train and movie tickets, top-ups, all through their mobile phones," said Teppo Paavola, Nokia VP and head of corporate business development.
Nokia Money will team up with Obopay, a mobile-payment provider that lets its customers pay for items via their mobile phones. Nokia invested heavily in Obopay earlier this year.
Nokia said the service is designed to operate with different networks and financial institutions. On the consumer's end, it can also work with any cell phone, not just Nokia models.
The new service is set for its first demo at Nokia World in Germany next week. A gradual rollout of Nokia Money to selected markets will take off early next year.
Nokia follows other financial companies trying to tap into the mobile market. For example, USAA bank recently revamped its iPhone app to let customers deposit checks through their phones. Sprint's MyMoneyManager allows consumers to bank and pay bills through their mobile phones.
The popularity of mobile banking has naturally raised concerns over security and privacy. But some experts questioned feel the technology is safe and secure, at least for the time being.