Where does the acquisition (read: assumption) of Softcard leave Google in its drive to compete with Apple Pay?
Not as far along as some industry observers would suggest.
Wired offered a glowing review of the deal.
But with Softcard out of the running, and wireless carriers now doing the distribution legwork for Google, Wallet could have a real chance to compete with the tool that has dominated mobile payments thus far: Apple Pay.
Not exactly. What Google has established with the deal, reinforcing a reality that has come to define the Google-Apple war, is that Google’s payments strategy will be “down market” while Apple will own the “upmarket” portion of the market. In other words, like Android, Google Wallet will skew to a lower-income demographic than Apple. Or, to put it another way, Apple Pay should remain the gold standard of mobile payments.
The reason: Touch ID biometrics.
Just last month, Apple sealed the deal on biometric-driven mobile payments with the filing for a patent for “finger biometric sensor data synchronization via a cloud computing device and related methods” — which, in non-legalese, means a patent for passing payment-related data from an iPhone to a POS. Otherwise known as Apple Pay.
Without a biometric payment mechanism, Google Wallet is a tier-two solution, because users would have to enter a passcode to pay — and that just hurts. LoopPay’s universal-payments dynamic offers it a chance at challenging Apple Pay, but this deal hurts Samsung, which just purchased LoopPay because of the mandatory install Google negotiated as part of the Softcard deal. The mandatory install is nice — but it won’t slay Apple Pay.
As Apple has ably proven, the UX is the issue, and Google has already botched that up once. Sure, there is a chance that Google could reach parity with Apple should it: a) find a biometric alternative to the thumbprint; or b) consumers sour on Touch ID. Alas, both options are unlikely, which will probably leave Google with a less-than-perfect mobile payments UX, and less-than-perfect just won’t cut it.
Learn more about alternative payments at Bank Innovation 2015, March 2-3 in Seattle. Get invited here.
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