The “Year of Mobile” may forever be on the horizon, but a new survey by
Harris Interactive says that consumers are getting more comfortable
making purchases through their cell phones. The question of course, is
what they’re willing to buy.

The study, commissioned by mobile credit card security firm Billing
Revolution, found that 1,883 of those surveyed were cellphone owners
(93 percent). Almost half (45 percent) said they think shopping via
mobile phones is “somewhat safe,” though just over a quarter (26
percent) feel that mobile shopping is completely safe.

Younger people are of course more comfortable giving away their
financial information on their phones. 59 percent of those 18-34 found
mobile shopping somewhat safe, versus 34 percent of adults over 55.
Also, 50 percent of men find the concept of shopping via cellphone
somewhat safe versus 39 percent of women.

“There’s clearly a large U.S. population of consumers open to the idea of making purchases via their cell phones,” said Andy Kleitsch, CEO of Billing Revolution. “With consumers getting more comfortable navigating the Web from mobile phones, mobile commerce is poised for explosive growth, and consumers are very much leading the charge in this direction.”

So far, it remains to be seen what people are willing to purchase. Ringtones, games and songs are easy to see, but are consumers willing to risk purchasing big ticket items on their mobile devices?

That is less obvious. Maya Mikhailov, VP of mobile product search company Slifter, says that it doesn’t make life easier to purchase everything through the phone. Slifter specializes in produce and other items sold locally: “for many items, consumers are still going to want to touch and feel things in stores.” Mikhailov thinks that the future of mobile shopping is going to be a hybrid approach, “giving consumers the chance to purchase however they want. ”

And while companies like Fandango are helping make the process of purchasing tickets on the go easier, purchasing larger items like electronics and cars won’t make sense on phones, especially if those products have the same shipping delay as things purchased online.

As iPhone comparison applications like Amazon Remembers, Save Benjis, and Frucall are learning, consumers often forgo price performance and time saving options for in person impulse purchases.

“What we’ve seen is that most people continue to buy in the retail space,” says Cortis Clark, President of Sol Robots, developer of Save Benjis. “If they’re at the retail store, it’s currently inconvenient to buy from the phone. People are using it mostly for piece of mind.”

But confidence in mobile shopping is the first step to overcoming that. Consumers were once afraid of sending their credit card information over the Internet. And we all know how that turned out.