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The current state of the mobile payment industry could at best be called slightly confounding, or, at worst, a complete mess.

But in spite of increased competition from stakeholders like Square, PayPal, Google, Mastercard, Intuit and, most recently, Verifone, the mobile payments industry is still set for some major growth.

According to Gartner research director Sandy Shen, mobile payments are set to top $171 billion this year. That’s a sixty percent jump over last year’s numbers, which totaled roughly $105 billion, Gartner said.

While much of that will be fueled by the larger companies, a significant percentage of the burden will be carried by smaller mobile payments players who will be better able to address specific regional needs, Shen noted.

Very much still in its infancy, the mobile payment industry has been defined so far by stakeholders aggressively jockeying for influence and market share. It’s a realm where Google is competing with the likes of MasterCard, and where established payment companies like PayPal are catching up to mobile-focused incumbents like Square. It’s an industry where the world is on its head.

One of the more interesting bits in the Gartner report concerns near-field communications (NFC), which has been a staple of mobile payment systems like Google Wallet. Gartner says that NFC transaction adoption will stay low until 2016, which doesn’t exactly bode well in the short-term for Google. The real progress in NFC will come from mobile ticketing, not retail purchases, Shen says.

If there’s a takeaway from the report it’s this: Mobile payment won’t reach its full potential  until consumer behavior shifts and the various stakeholders find a way to cooperate. Neither one of these things has a great chance of happening, however, until a clear frontrunner emerges.

Mobile payments photo via Shutterstock

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