When Karl Malden warned on TV, "Don't leave home without it," he meant your credit card. But the 2010 holiday shopping season might be the first time his warning could easily refer to your smartphone.

During the shopping season's final weekend, Dec. 18-19, PayPal saw a 279 percent jump in payments made with smartphones and other mobile devices over last year. The online payment company said Monday that it expects customers to make more than $700 million in payments through mobile devices in 2010, up from $25 million in 2008.

That huge increase comes amid what appears to be another record year for all online shopping. While complete data is not yet available for the 2010 holiday season, consumers appeared on track to extend the trend of spending more online this year than they did last year.

Amazon.com on Monday said that on its peak demand day for the 2010 holiday season, Nov. 29, customers ordered a record-breaking 13.7 million items, about 158 items per second. That was a 44 percent jump from the busiest day of the 2009 holiday season, when Amazon customers ordered 9.5 million items on Dec. 14. The online shopping giant also said the third-generation Kindle, its mobile e-reader, has become its bestselling product ever, eclipsing the book "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

But this year mobile shopping became a significant factor.


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"We all knew there would be a time when smartphone shopping would really take off," Laura Chambers, senior director of mobile for PayPal, said in an interview. "There is no question now that this has really been the year "... This year has been a crazy year in terms of the growth in shopping with smartphones."

While mobile purchases are still a "reasonably small percentage" -- less than 10 percent -- of PayPal's total volume, Chambers said "it's growing really quickly" as smartphones become more ubiquitous, as retailers improve mobile websites and developers create new shopping apps, and as shoppers grow more comfortable with the idea of using a smartphone or tablet computer to buy stuff.

Technology such as the "near field communications" (NFC) chips included in the new Nexus S phone built by Samsung and powered by Google's Android operating system, which may ultimately allow people to buy something by touching their phone to a checkout line sensor, will only help that trend, Chambers said.

But smartphones are not just a way to buy things. During the 2010 holiday season, they also became a tool that increasingly broke down the wall between online and in-store shopping, experts said, changing how people shop as well as where and when they shop.

"It's a landmark year" for mobile e-commerce, said Greg Girard, an analyst with IDC who follows mobile e-commerce trends and identified the trend. "Every box, or retail store, is a glass box now. E-commerce gave consumers the ability to look from outside into the store, for inventory look-up and pricing. Now, with a smartphone in the store, the consumer can look outside the store" to compare prices and availability at competing retailers.

A recent survey of more than 8,000 Americans aged 13 to 64 by Yahoo and the Nielsen Co. found that customers are increasingly using their smartphones within a store, to send photos of products to friends and family, to scan bar codes, and to request coupons.

And if you see something you just have to have -- right now -- "mobile becomes critical for impulse, time-sensitive buys and when a PC is just not available," blogger Becky Ebenkamp wrote on Yahoo's Advertising Blog.

The rise of online discount brokers like Groupon, which often reaches consumers with offers through their smartphones, is also boosting mobile e-commerce, Girard said.

"Many of the deals are local; most are straightforward and don't take a lot of research, and they're all time-sensitive," he said.

Amazon does not disclose the share of sales made with a laptop or desktop computer versus a mobile device. But mobile customers' platform did affect when they shopped on Amazon. The biggest mobile shopping days for iPad, iPhone and Android users was Sunday, while Friday was the top day for BlackBerry users.

PayPal, a unit of San Jose-based eBay, also is seeing a different daily rhythm for shoppers who make purchases with a mobile device, with a peak between noon and 1 p.m., when many workers get a break, and a second peak at about 7 p.m. The most common categories purchased with mobile devices were electronics, sportswear, shoes and apparel, games, and smartphone content, like apps or ringtones.

Amazon also hinted Monday at its champion Christmas-shopping procrastinator for 2010, saying that the last order delivered by the online retail giant in time for Christmas was an Apple Mac Mini, bought at 1:41 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and delivered to Woodinville, Wash., at 8:04 p.m. that evening.

You know who you are.

Contact Mike Swift at 408-271-3648. Follow him at Twitter.com/swiftstories.

PAY ON THE GO
PayPal says payments made though smartphones and other mobile devices represent a small but rapidly growing share of spending done through the online payments service. Mobile payments for the full year:
2008: $25 million
2009: $141 million
2010: more than $700 million
  • From the Nov. 15 start of the holiday shopping season until Dec. 15, PayPal saw a 300 percent increase in mobile payments compared with the same period in 2009.

    158 items per second
    The volume of goods sold by
    Amazon.com on its busiest day, Nov. 29, a record-breaking day
    for the online company.