PayPal Mobile App Tops One Million Downloads

Existing for just barely three weeks, PayPal's mobile iPhone app has now seen more than one million downloads, PayPal confirmed Wednesday (April 7). Although that's certainly an impressive achievement, the much more telling figure is the one that wasn't released: the dollar value—or even simply the number—of actual transactions coming from the free app.

PayPal was quick to put to a statement saying that the download number meant the world has moved into a new form of payment.

"With PayPal Mobile on the iPhone, trips to the ATM are a thing of the past," the statement attributed to Osama Bedier, PayPal's vice president of platform and emerging technology, said. "One million downloads shows just how ready people are to live in a cashless and card-free culture with their wallet living safely in the cloud."

Not necessarily. Say what you will about the iPhone, but its designers certainly made it easy to use and the app download function is almost effortless. That's typically a good thing. But, in this case, a downside materializes.

Because the PayPal app is free and downloading it requires just a few very easy clicks, there's hardly any commitment. Some iPhone users download any app that seems a little bit amusing and never bother to use it. It may get deleted a week later, never having been launched.

There are certainly strong reasons to believe that the PayPal mobile app will be quite successful. To begin with, if PayPal does nothing more than get its 81 million active Web users to move their efforts to mobile (an environment where most of those users are quite comfortable), that will place its app in very good stead marketshare-wise.

Demographically, the people who are now using PayPal are the most frequent mobile users, so there's certainly no reason to doubt that PayPal will do very well.

Also, PayPal wisely didn't launch an app that merely processes direct payments. It leveraged quite a few iPhone attributes, which is the kind of thing that will serve it very well in M-Commerce. By simply banging two iPhones together (gently, please. Those things are mostly glass), payment data is shared. A Split Check feature helps electronically split checks—or the cost of joint gifts or tickets—and then charges each participant accordingly.

In short, a million downloads on its own means very little. Fortunately for PayPal, all of the other indicators are even brighter.