It’s a sad but common sight at Toronto restaurants: clutches of dazed diners, bathed in the sickly glow of their smartphone screens, totally impervious to all social niceties. Now PayPal is capitalizing on the antisocial trend with PayPal Mobile, an app that makes staring down at your phone a totally legitimate component of the dining-out experience.
The app is simple enough to use: each user uploads a profile photo and then “checks in” to participating businesses whenever they want to pay with PayPal. The person’s photo automatically pops up on the business’s system, letting employees confirm the user’s identity and charge them for their order. The payee has the option of adding a tip, and gets an email confirmation from PayPal once the payment goes through.
The potential upside, at least right now, seems to be speed. Diners can use the app to settle their cheques without having to flag down busy waiters or line up at the bar to use clunky debit machines. PayPal, meanwhile, is spinning the technology as a total wallet-replacement system, implying that users can ditch their physical payment methods in favour of the smartphone-based setup—which seems a bit premature, given that only 50 Toronto businesses are currently PayPal-compatible. (That said, judging by the on-trend factor of the list—it includes Get Well and The Goods in Little Portugal, as well as Come and Get It and Fonda Lola on Queen West—we suspect that number may rise fairly quickly.)
For now at least, people should probably hang on to their cash and plastic. Much less exciting, sure, but also less likely to run out of batteries the one day you forget your charger at home.