Can you live for a month using only an iPhone to pay for things?

Christina Bonnington sure hopes so.

According to the tech press, one of the "missing features" in the iPhone 5 was the lack of "near-field communications", or NFC, technology. The promise of such tech is that it allows you to turn a phone into a programmable contactless card, and wave it at readers to make payments all day long.

As Matt Drance writes, there was never really any doubt that Apple would not introduce the tech in the iPhone, because although it's a promising technology, it doesn't actually have any use. At least, not today. And so Apple is waiting until it does have some practical applications before moving to roll-out.

In the meantime, one Wired reporter is finding out that it's perfectly possible to make payments with your iPhone today, NFC be damned. Well, not perfectly possible; but doable with a little graft.

Christina Bonnington is living walletless for a month:

You never realize how handy cash is until you don’t have any.

I learned this lesson one day last week when, overcome by hunger, I wandered into the Wired kitchen to grab a bagel for breakfast. I reached into my pocket and suddenly remembered I couldn’t pay for it. See, I’ve decided to spend a month living without a wallet, using my smartphone and various apps to pay for everything. We’re pretty wired here at Wired, but the kitchen still demands cash. Luddites.

Dejected, I went back to my desk and, facing a deadline and unable to venture out into the world, grabbed the first thing that came to hand: a granola bar that’s been sitting in the bottom of my backpack since CES. This culinary disaster was the one setback in what’s been an otherwise flawless week without a wallet, and it taught me a valuable lesson: Be prepared.

We'll see if she can pull it off.

A woman uses Square, a US-only app enabling any iPhone to make mobile payments. Photograph:squareup.com

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Getty
Show Hide image

“I felt very lonely”: addressing the untold story of isolation among young mothers

With one in five young mothers lonely “all the time”, it’s time for employers and services to step up.

“Despite having my child with me all the time, I felt very lonely,” says Laura Davies. A member of an advisory panel for the Young Women’s Trust, she had her son age 20. Now, with a new report suggesting that one in five young mums “feels lonely all the time”, she’s sharing her story.

Polling commissioned by the Young Women’s Trust has highlighted the isolation that young motherhood can bring. Of course, getting out and about the same as you did before is never easy once there’s a young child in the picture. For young mothers, however, the situation can be particularly difficult.

According to the report, over a quarter of young mothers leave the house just once a week or less, with some leaving just once a month.

Aside from all the usual challenges – like wrestling a colicky infant into their jacket, or pumping milk for the trip with one hand while making sure no-one is crawling into anything dangerous with the other – young mothers are more likely to suffer from a lack of support network, or to lack the confidence to approach mother-baby groups and other organisations designed to help. In fact, some 68 per cent of young mothers said they had felt unwelcome in a parent and toddler group.

Davies paints what research suggests is a common picture.

“Motherhood had alienated me from my past. While all my friends were off forging a future for themselves, I was under a mountain of baby clothes trying to navigate my new life. Our schedules were different and it became hard to find the time.”

“No one ever tells you that when you have a child you will feel an overwhelming sense of love that you cannot describe, but also an overwhelming sense of loneliness when you realise that your life won’t be the same again.

More than half of 16 to 24-year-olds surveyed said that they felt lonelier since becoming a mother, with more than two-thirds saying they had fewer friends than before. Yet making new friends can be hard, too, especially given the judgement young mothers can face. In fact, 73 per cent of young mothers polled said they’d experienced rudeness or unpleasant behaviour when out with their children in public.

As Davies puts it, “Trying to find mum friends when your self-confidence is at rock bottom is daunting. I found it easier to reach out for support online than meet people face to face. Knowing they couldn’t judge me on my age gave me comfort.”

While online support can help, however, loneliness can still become a problem without friends to visit or a workplace to go to. Many young mothers said they would be pleased to go back to work – and would prefer to earn money rather than rely on benefits. After all, typing some invoices, or getting back on the tills, doesn’t just mean a paycheck – it’s also a change to speak to someone old enough to understand the words “type”, “invoice” and “till”.

As Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton explains, “More support is needed for young mothers who want to work. This could include mentoring to help ease women’s move back into education or employment.”

But mothers going back to work don’t only have to grapple with childcare arrangements, time management and their own self-confidence – they also have to negotiate with employers. Although the 2003 Employment Act introduced the right for parents of young children to apply to work flexibly, there is no obligation for their employer to agree. (Even though 83 per cent of women surveyed by the Young Women’s Trust said flexible hours would help them find secure work, 26 per cent said they had had a request turned down.)

Dr Easton concludes: “The report recommends access to affordable childcare, better support for young women at job centres and advertising jobs on a flexible, part-time or job share basis by default.”

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland