O2 today officially launched its O2 Wallet trial, linking up Transport for London, Barclaycard, Visa Europe and Nokia among others. O2 said the O2 Wallet mobile phone offering "will replace your wallet" in the future.

The O2 Wallet enable you use your mobile phone - in this case a Nokia 6131 NFC handset - to pay for purchases, access events or be used as an Oystercard for travel around London, simply by touching the phone to a reader. In the future, the service will sit on the SIM card in your phone, so you'll be able to use the service on any NFC-enabled handset.

"The O2 Wallet card can eventually hold everything you have in your wallet," Cath Keers, customer director at O2, told us at a launch event in London this morning.

Replacing your wallet

"Everything from your credit card and travel card to library cards and event tickets will eventually be held on your mobile phone, replacing the need for a wallet."

The O2 Wallet pilot, launched today, involves 500 people who are already O2 customers and Oystercard users. Available across the London transport network and in some 2,000 retail outlets, it is the biggest near-field communications (NFC) set-up so far in Europe, O2 said.

The trialists will be able to pay for small items such as coffees, newspapers and lunch using a preloaded £200 balance from Barclaycard. The Barclaycard application is built into the handset in the same way as the Oystercard application, and is accessible through the main user interface. Throughout the trial, payments will only be allowed for items under £10 but this may change in the future.

Evaluation

"We'll evaluate how customers want to use the payment service once the trial has finished," Colin Swain, head of research and development at Barclaycard told Tech.co.uk at this morning's launch event.

"Perhaps we'll let customers dictate their own value credit limit available on their phones, or introduce a set limit. It's likely that payments over a certain amount, say £50, will be protected by a PIN code," Swain added.

The trial will run for six months after which the firms will evaluate how to eventually roll the scheme out commercially. The plan is to roll it out outside of London too, but no details on this were given at this stage.

NFC to change mobiles

"Research shows that people are more likely to return home if they leave their phone behind than their wallet or keys. So why not have your wallet on your phone? We believe that NFC technology is going to fundamentally change the way people use their mobile phones," Keers said.

The O2 Wallet service won't be launched commercially until 'late 2008 at the earliest,' O2 said.