Google Acquires Softcard Technology: Another Blow to Apple Pay?
Feb. 26, 2015
Google this week signed an agreement with the U.S. wireless carriers AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless that should enable Google Wallet to more effectively compete with Apple Pay. The company said it has acquired the Softcard technology, which the carriers developed as part of a joint venture together, and that the Google Wallet app will be pre-installed on all Android phones sold by these carriers.
Softcard, which began life as ISIS, ran into significant delays in its development in addition to being forced to rebrand. It also faced recent layoffs and the future of its app is cloudy, according to the company’s blog: “For now, Softcard customers can continue to tap and pay with the app. We will share more information with customers and partners in the coming weeks.”
Google Wallet, which has been available since 2011 but not widely used (partly because it was blocked by the carriers in favor of their competing solution), will be bolstered by the Softcard technology and the distribution deal. Mobile contactless payments at the POS leveraging NFC floundered until the launch of Apple Pay last September. Apple infused new life into the technology and has begun the process of consumer education as well, with high-profile TV ads targeted at potential users.
From an Android perspective, integrating Softcard’s technology and leveraging distribution through AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless stores may give Google Wallet the juice it needs to establish itself as the go-to mobile contactless payment method. Samsung, however, will likely have an impact after its acquisition last week of Boston-area mobile payments technology provider Loop Pay, though it does not, as of yet, have a solution in the field like Google Wallet.