When asking for my check after dinner the other night, the waitress came by with her iPad and up on her screen came a place for me to review and sign my bill. "Do you want me to text you the credit card receipt?" she asked.
"What the heck is going on?" I thought. "Is there anything my iPad and smartphone won't do these days?"
Let me ask you a question... When you were younger, would you have ever believed that a handheld telephone would replace your wallet?
As you may already know, that's becoming the new reality. According to market research firm Gartner, every year people use their cellphones to buy $172 billion worth of items. And that number is expected to increase an amazing 249% by 2016.
If history is any guide, these mobile-based business transactions are just child's play compared to what we'll be doing in the years ahead.
To capture the huge gains that lie ahead, several companies are positioning themselves to compete in this very big mobile payment game.
I predict Apple will be the winner.
In fact, I predict that within the next 12 months, Apple will create a new currency called "iCash" and become the largest "bank" in America.
The company is already quietly moving in this direction by acquiring smaller firms with patents on top-of-the line technology that could help make "iCash" a reality.
Remember, Apple has a history of transforming technology into something you can use every day. And I think the company has the best shot of creating the "It" product when it comes to mobile payments.
But there's only one problem. Apple isn't a game-changer -- the kind of stock I look for that could deliver triple-digit gains or more over a few years. Just by virtue of the law of large numbers, it's not hard to see that its days of heady growth are pretty much over.
Instead, I'm looking at another stock in this space, one that has the kind of top-of-the-line technology a company like Apple would find appealing enough to acquire for its iCash initiative.
It's a $9.6 billion company, which would be nothing for Apple to buy, considering its $42.68 billion cash hoard. And judging by Apple's recent activity in this space, I think an acquisition is a real possibility.
NXP is a global leader in the field of chips that help devices identify and communicate with each other. It's a technology known as near-field communications, which enables any two devices that are near each other to talk to each other.
So far, near-field chips have been a booming business for NXP, growing 19% in 2011, 41% in 2012, and is on track to grow 30% this year (to $1.26 billion), according to analysts at Merrill Lynch. These ID chips were just 16% of NXP's $4 billion revenue base in 2011, but should account for 35% of sales by 2015.
If mobile payments keep growing at triple-digit rates, NXP could easily double its profits in a few short years. You can imagine what that would do to its share price. It clearly has the most upside of any company in the mobile payment space.