SO FINALLY Android Pay is available in the UK. The contactless digital wallet service is taking centre stage, and pulling attention away from the banks and services that provide them.
It's great news for the consumer, who can have all their cards, including loyalty and gift cards, in one virtual place. But does this mean that we'll substitute the finance world for the tech world in the language of the high street?
Suddenly 'Do you accept Visa or MasterCard?' will be replaced by 'Do you accept Apple Pay or Android Pay?'.
Jonathan Duffy, MD of EMEA at Netclearance, has been here before. The company provided the beacon tech behind Danske Bank's MobilePay platform in, funnily enough, Denmark.
“It is no secret that banks have concerns that tech giants such as Apple and Google are entering their sectors with mobile wallets and payment solutions," he explained.
"As mobile payments become more popular, the risk of banks falling behind is very real, especially as the likes of Apple build on their consumer relationships to make further progress into mobile payments. Banks need to explore ways that they can retain their customers’ loyalty."
And it's true. As well as the news releases for Google this morning, we've been inundated with comments from the banks keen to be front and centre of the announcements. But it doesn't always work.
“Take MVNOs, for example, which once upon a time had all the influence over their customers. Fast forward to 2007 and Apple iPhone is launched," Duffy said.
"Exclusive contracts with operators were signed (AT&T in the US and O2 in the UK) and the operators’ worst nightmare of becoming ‘dumb pipes’ began turning to reality. Gone are the MVNO heydays and Apple is now the brand most synonymous with mobile innovation. How do banks avoid the same fate?"
It could be the reason why Barclays has once again opted out of the generic digital wallet in favour of its own solution.
“Banks can ward off tech firms and disrupt the industry if they look at innovative ways to use existing technology quickly. There are a few early movers such as Danske Bank in the Nordics with their phone platform-agnostic technology mBeaconPay," he said.
"30,000 retailers have already installed Danske Bank’s mobile payment system and it is the region's third most downloaded app (behind Facebook and Facebook Messenger). An estimated 2.9 million people now actively use MobilePay.”
MBeaconPay differs from Android Pay and Apple Pay by using 'beacons' based on tech that exists in almost every phone - not just NFC but BLE, WiFi and QR. Additionally, it can be white labelled into a bank's app, rather than into the operating system, preserving brand identity.
The uptake has been so strong that Denmark is heralded as the closest country in the world to the cashless society.
As for Android Pay, it's already grabbing the headlines as it begins a global rollout, with automatic acceptance anywhere that takes contactless cards from today, as long as the banks participate.
What remains to be seen is whether the banks that hold out are doing so to protect their brand, or whether it's inevitable that operating systems are the face of the wallet. µ
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