In just a few years people may be using their cellphones as wallets. More than a third of New Zealanders now own smartphones, and within two years most people will probably have one.
"You won't be able to get a non-smartphone soon," says Jayson Herewini (pictured), the Wanganui owner of a business that specialises in smartphone websites.
There are three main types: android phones, iPhones and BlackBerries. As well as being used for telephoning and texting, they are mini-computers with touch-screen typing. People with smartphones connected to the internet become very attached to them and take them everywhere.
They're most commonly used for getting emails, texts and calls but also for searching the internet, playing games and connecting to social websites such as Facebook.
But they can also be used to buy, sell, look at advertisements and transfer money. This is m-commerce and it is increasing.
Say you want to buy a spanner from a hardware store without going into town. You can go to its mobile (m) website on your smartphone and browse the tool selection.
You could get there via a search engine such as Google. But you might have downloaded an icon to your smartphone the last time you went there. If so, you can bring up that little symbol, called an application or app, tap it and go straight to the m-website.
Shopping is then as it would be on your home computer. You find the tool you want and add it to your virtual shopping trolley, enter your credit card details and the money is deducted.
The business sends you a text or email to confirm the transaction and delivery is arranged.
That's the simplest type of transaction, but it can get more technological. For example, a business selling music might entice you with a cool dance video, then ask whether you want to buy clothes like the ones the dancers are wearing.
A tap on your smartphone screen and you can be at the m-website of the clothing store.
In Stockholm, people selling a magazine to raise funds for the homeless discovered that few people were carrying cash. They developed a system where each vendor had their own identification number and buyers texting it had the price of the magazine deducted from their bank accounts. Text donations to charities can work the same way, with the agreement of telephone companies. The telephone company pays the charity and adds the same amount to the customer's next phone bill.
Businesses wanting to profit from m-commerce need an m-website, one that fits on the smaller screen of a smartphone.
The m-website also provides customers with an app, a little picture they can download free to their smartphone.
It stays there and a tap of the customer's finger makes the connection.
That's simple m-commerce, but it can get a lot more sophisticated.
For example, the makers of M&M;'S combined their marketing in Canada with a game called Find Red. The aim was to find the red M&M;'S sweets pictured in the windows of three Toronto houses by Google Maps.
The game engaged millions of people through posters and clues on sweet packages and social media. This is called cross-channel marketing.
It sold more sweets, and also offered the company a chance to sell spot advertising for other products within the game.
When m-commerce has to cross over to the old-fashioned print media it uses QRs - patterns of dots that work a bit like a bar code. Smartphone owners who have downloaded a QR reader can use their phone's camera to scan the QR and be taken straight to the businesses m-website. QR stands for quick response, because scanning saves the phone owner the trouble of typing in a web address.
Businesses that can capture the number of customers' smartphones can also text or email them with discounts and special offers.
One of the commonest uses of smartphones is searching for shops or places to eat.
Looking for an Indian restaurant in Tauranga, you could type those words into a search engine and see what came up. Then you could go to the m-website of the restaurant of your choice.
If its phone number is listed you could ring it with a tap of your finger. If you don't know where it is you could tap your Google map app and get directions to it, either in map form or as a list of written instructions.
Banking Smartphones are especially useful for keeping track of bank accounts and moving money around.
They allow you to check your own bank accounts at any time and in any place with phone reception. You can then move money from one account to another or find the nearest bank or money machine.
More to come The smartphones of the future may be used to make payments in shops and on public transport.
This would only happen with the agreement of banks, or of phone accounts, and if the receiver has a telephone link suitable for electronic funds transfer.
You'd do your grocery shopping, get to the checkout, pull out your smartphone and flash it past a scan reader.
There would be no need for a wallet or cards.
Busy m-websites are attractive places for other businesses to advertise. Attractiveness is measured by how many people have the business' app on their phones, how much time people spend at the site, and how often.
"If you can keep a person on your website for more than two minutes you have a very, very successful website," Herewini says.
M-commerce is relatively new to New Zealand.
So far it is mainly banks, major corporates and couriers that have m-websites.
Small, medium-sized and home-based businesses are now starting to get them.