Google has officially inked a deal with mobile payments solution provider Softcard and announced a collaboration with US wireless carriers Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T. It's a major step forward for the Internet giant, which is looking to compete with Apple and Samsung in the mobile payments arena.
As part of the deal, Google is acquiring technology and intellectual property from Softcard, which will likely be used to improve upon the current capabilities of the Google Wallet app. Consumers can use the app, which is similar to Apple Pay, to tap their phones to pay for purchases in select brick-and-mortar stores.
Softcard, originally founded as Isis, launched in 2013 as a joint venture from AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile to bring NFC-based mobile payments to US consumers. In addition to an unfortunate but necessary renaming process, the project struggled as a result of poor user experience and limited support for credit cards.
Hopefully Softcard's technology will fare better as part of Google's offerings. Starting later this year, Google reports, the Google Wallet app and tap-and-pay functionality will come pre-installed on Android phones running KitKat or higher from Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T.
[More Google projects to watch this year.]
Current Softcard users can continue to tap and pay through the app for the time being, the company reports, and more information on the evolution of its Google partnership will be available in coming months.
The news from Google and Softcard arrives amid a flurry of activity in the mobile payments space. Tech companies are scrambling to compete with Apple Pay, which is already available on the iPhone and has already started making waves. The app recently became available to consumers on certain JetBlue routes to pay for in-flight purchases.
Despite its influence, Apple could face major competition from Samsung, which most recently upped its strategy with the acquisition of mobile payment startup LoopPay. The company uses technology that doesn't require NFC to operate. This move could put Samsung ahead of Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and Softcard, all of which depend on NFC to process payments.
Background: NFC in the smartphone and payment terminal allows NFC radios to transmit information and complete payment transactions. It's effective, but also requires retailers to upgrade their in-store payment machines, which is pricey.
As far as the biggest tech companies are concerned, it's only a matter of time before smartphones replace cash and cards. Google's latest move will bring mobile payments to a larger audience, and pre-installing the app could influence more Android users to adopt mobile wallets.
The bigger question is, will mobile payments eventually replace traditional currency? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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