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In its latest attempt to compete with Apple Pay, Google has inked a distribution deal with major US carriers: Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and AT&T will pre-install Google Wallet on their Android phones for US consumers starting later this year. Meanwhile, Google is also licensing payment technology from Softcard to help smooth its impending expansion. Given that Apple Pay comes with every new iOS device, it seems fair for Google to try the same tactic.
After pushing NFC as the future of payments, Google Wallet will now provide a plastic, prepaid debit card. The decision is a sign that NFC is being adopted at a slower rate than many anticipated as many consumers feel there is not that much friction involved in the current system of payments after all. That said, Square and Paypal have been instrumental in payments going mobile and recent entrant Coin is trying to connect all your cards to a single one managed via an app. Stay tuned as the payments race continues.
Coin may stand a chance to revolutionize the payments space by allowing you to consolidate your bank and loyalty cards onto a single platform. The Kickstarter project allows you to tie all of your cards to a single one via bluetooth and then actively manage which one you use through an app. Unlike other payment startups, Coin is not a disruptive technology, but an enabler; one that lets you pay chiefly the same way you always did but with more flexibility. While they may run into some friction with banks and merchants who have not sanctioned this activity, the utility Coin provides is worht of attention.
Mobile payments technology has been slow to reach mainstream acceptance, partially because of the ubiquity of credit card readers and the sluggishness of the industry to respond to change. A new startup, Loop, believes it has solved a major part of the problem by developing a dongle for smartphones that will facilitate payments via mobile and which is compatible with about 90% of existing credit card swiping systems. The dongle works by creating a changing magnetic field to mock the magnetic information received by the read head of a card swiper. The user experience is smoother than the one offered by other mobile payments solutions as well, allowing users to simply swipe their cards to add them to their virtual wallet, as long as the names on the cards match the name on the user’s verified Loop account. Improving ease of use for both users and vendors is critical to bringing mobile payments to the mainstream, and Loop’s first steps towards this end could be the initial push needed to get there.
One of the more under-the-radar announcements at Google’s I/O conference was Google Wallet. While the idea clearly isn’t the showpiece of Google’s annual conference, it’s nonetheless a direct attack on other payment systems, and leverages Chrome, Android, Google+, and Gmail to undercut competitors. For instance, Google plans to combat shopping-cart-abandonment – which, globally, occurs at a staggering rate of 82% – through Chrome. When you visit a shopping site with Chrome – already the world’s most popular browser – your billing and shipping information will be baked into the browser. You’ll be prompted with your shipping, billing, and credit card information through the browser, and Google says it pares down the checkout from 21 steps to just 3. The biggest sticking point of this part of Google Wallet, though, is that website owners have to implement the API on their end, so the potential impact is inherently limited unless it becomes the industry standard. At the same time, Google has also introduced a mobile API that would allow e-commerce websites to support checkout via Google Wallet, setting up a direct alternative to the PayPal button. It’s similar to the Chrome system, but as it’s early days for the technology, there aren’t many more details revealed yet.
More impressively though, Google Wallet has extended its Android reach into the physical world. Merchants and Developers are now able to sell physical goods and services through Google Wallet, and can now offer Android users two-click checkout. Partners include Airbnb, Expedia, Uber, Wrapp, Rue La La, and more. What’s more, though, is that Google Wallet also functions in Gmail, leveraging the peer-to-peer element of email to enable person-to-person payments. With Gmail’s latest update, users can now “attach money” to an email, to transfer funds between people, say, to the babysitter instead of cash, etc. Google Wallet still falls behind functions like PayPal and Square in the real-world department, and it’s unclear what Plan B is if NFC fails. At the same time, though, there’s a new hat in the ‘Wallet’ ring, one to be watched closely.
WalletKit, a new platform to equip businesses to create passes for Apple Passbook and other mobile wallets, launched today. Its unique quality in the crowded mobile pass field is its extremely simple backend, allowing any user with access to the system to make changes in real time to all distributed passes, with no need for technical knowledge. The company also includes analytics reports to track the number of passes distributed and used.
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