In October 2014, Apple launched its highly anticipated mobile wallet solution, Apple Pay. Although the ability to make purchases through a smartphone app was not a brand-new concept, the business world viewed Apple Pay as the product that would finally push near-field communication (NFC) and contactless payment technology to the forefront of retail.
“Apple raised visibility [of payments as] something you can and should be able to do with a mobile device,” said Gregory Mann, chief marketing officer of mobile wallet solution LoopPay. “It took the conversation out of B2B partners … and brought it to consumers’ dining room tables. The average person out there [now knows] this is something you can do with your phone.”
Being a contender in the mobile payments space is becoming a coveted position by large and small businesses. A largely fragmented sector with several unexpected turns over the years, the digital wallet battlefield has recently been showing signs of maturation, which tells us that the market is starting to consolidate and that prominent players may soon emerge.
Since the inception of mobile payments, there has been a lack of a cohesive solution by key players in the space. For example, businesses and payment vendors are at odds with the banks over sharing transaction revenues. And now cellular providers are creating a proprietary solution to avoid dealing with Apple and Google. As we leap into 2015, mobile payments are expected to become mainstream within the next 12 months, and the market has already begun to straighten out.
The introduction of Apple Pay last Monday was widely described as the dawn of a new era for smartphone payments. But within a week, two major pharmacy chains, Rite Aid RAD and CVS CVS, rejected Apple’s AAPL version of the future: Both disabled Apple Pay as well as other tap-to-pay mobile payments systems Google Wallet and Softcard. As expected, customers took to Twitter to complain, and they almost universally sided with the smartphone company over the drugstores.
CVS hasn’t publicly explained itself. Rite Aid spokeswoman Ashley Flower defended the company in an e-mail to Bloomberg Businessweek. “We are continually evaluating various forms of mobile payment technologies, and are committed to offering convenient, reliable, and secure payment methods that meet the needs of our customers,” she wrote.
Go ahead and forget your wallet. Apple’s new mobile payment system, Apple Pay, launches today Oct. 20, and while some have questioned whether the technology is safe, security experts say it may actually be safer than swiping your credit or debit card.
Apple Pay lets iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus users make purchases in stores with their smartphones, using near-field communication NFC technology. A tiny antennain the phone transmits encrypted credit card data without consumers having to swipe their card.
NFC technology isn’t new; it’s used to make mobile payments from Android phones with apps like Google Wallet and Softcard. But Apple’s mobile wallet might be more secure than those other options, according to Martin Ferenczi, the North American president of Oberthur Technologies, a French electronics security company.
Both Twitter and Facebook are competing with other tech giants, including Apple, Google, PayPal and the leading credit card companies to own the emerging mobile payment sector, which is immensely popular with consumers and has proven fertile territory for startups. More specifically, the leading technology companies are seeking an advantage in so-called peer-to-peer payments, which are typically smaller payments sent from one person to another. Individuals could use such payments, for example, when they are splitting a bill or to wire money.