2017 a quiet year for true mobile wallets in US
Editor's note: This is article is the intro to Mobile Payments Today's annual Mobile Wallet Comparison guide, which is now available for purchase.
For the most part, 2017 has been a quiet year for mobile wallets.
Consider this: in the weeks after Mobile Payments Today asked companies to supply information for last year’s Mobile Wallet Comparison Guide, a number of events happened in the industry that created a lot of buzz.
MasterCard and Visa each made significant announcements that will affect mobile payments in the future. And PayPal, believe it or not, was at the center of a couple of those announcements as the company finds its way as a checkout option at physical retail locations.
Apple added Apple Pay web browser-based payments to its own Safari system.
We also saw both Chase and Citi come out with their respective mobile wallets last November.
But since those announcements, it’s been quiet, especially in the U.S.
Part of the reason for this is because consumer adoption of proximity mobile payments has stalled. Big time.
Consumers almost always cite two reasons for not using a mobile wallet: a card-based payment is easier and they are unsure about the security of mobile payments. The latter reason is area the industry still struggles to combat.
The bottom line for mobile wallet providers is that they are not providing enough, or really any, reasons to make the switch from cards to mobile wallets at the physical point of sale.
Until that happens, adoption will not reach the critical mass needed for widespread success in the U.S. On the flip side, mobile payments continue to thrive in countries such as China and India.
And that brings us to this year's guide.
While it’s almost impossible to track every single mobile-wallet provider worldwide, we’re here to help give you an inside look into some of them.
The Mobile Payments Today Mobile Wallet Comparison Guide gathers together in one spot a compendium of nearly 60 mobile wallets, compiling their differing capabilities in an easy-to-compare format.
We asked mobile-wallet providers a wide range of questions about their product. Software developers provided us answers about their consumer-facing features as well as some other details that might not be important to everyday users such as security settings.
Our guide is intended to act as an introduction to these providers, not as a substitute for a comprehensive overview of each product. This guide offers just enough information to introduce you to this market and help you get started down the path to a possible partnership (or acquisition).
This year’s guide contains less entrants than the previous two years, but that is because we’ve become more stringent with our requirements. For those merchant apps with a loyalty or in-app payment capability, we last year introduced a comparison guide for those retailers.
In general, this is our interpretation of a mobile wallet based on multiple industry studies:
A mobile wallet can be a place where consumers can store and organize coupons, loyalty programs, payment cards, tickets, car-insurance identification and whatever else can be turned into a digital item from its original paper or plastic form.
Some mobile wallets tout other features such as bill payment, comparison shopping, location-aware services, person-to-person payments functionality and social-media connectivity.
It must have more than one of these features.
If a mobile wallet was not available to the general public, we didn't include it in the guide.
A "wallet" that is restricted to a single retailer also was not included. A mobile app with a payment component is something we don't consider a true mobile wallet. We did, however, make a few exceptions upon further review of the product. We included some white-label products in the guide.
This year is the first time we included the three major Pays in the guide.
Samsung completed the survey. And while Apple and Google did not, we decided to make these entries based on the public information available about both wallets. It seemed silly not to include them in such a guide at this point.
Unfortunately, we can't do that for every company that missed the initial call for entry.
Major providers such as Alipay, Paytm and WeChat did answer our call for entries. We also did not receive entries from major banks with Android-based mobile wallets. So, please keep that in mind as you keep the guide handy as a resource.
This guide can serve as a cheat sheet of sorts. What is my competition doing? Which features are they finding success with? Is there something they are doing that we’re missing? Is there a chance to collaborate, or even combine assets into one company?
Proximity-based, mobile wallet payments in the U.S. is at a crossroads. The market here is much different than what you'll find in a country such as China.
Part of what makes Alipay and WeChat successful in the Far East is that both services give users the ability to do much more than just pay for goods and services. Both platforms, particularly WeChat, have become part of China's social fabric.
As you read over this guide, think about what's missing from each entry and how they can improve with new features.
Will Hernandez has 14 years of experience ranging from newspapers to wire services and trade publications. Before becoming Editor of MobilePaymentsToday.com, he spent two years as the content manager for PaymentsJournal.com, a leading payments industry news aggregator and information hub published by Mercator Advisory Group. Will spent four years covering the payments industry as an associate editor for multiple publications in SourceMedia's Payments Group based in Chicago.