Google has had a mobile wallet for a few years now. In fact, it has been up and running since around 2011, and it has been making mobile payments easier ever since. However, over the course of the last six months – since last fall – the mobile payments landscape has changed drastically. Apple entered the market with their highly-anticipated Apple Pay mobile payment system, and it had taken off very well. Users have been increasingly satisfied with the payment system, and retailers have been gaining in terms of how many are actively accepting Apple Pay.
However, today Google announced that they would be acquiring Softcard, a company that specializes in the mobile payment space and is publicly backed by Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Google Wallet was always there, but Softcard was what companies like Verizon, and AT&T backed, which put Google in a tough spot, and on a lonely island. In fact, the only company that actually backed Google Wallet was Sprint, and with their recent problems in terms of keeping customers – they really didn’t really have a leg to stand on in terms of keeping up with Apple Pay.
Now though, this acquisition locks up Google Wallet and puts it on the map in terms of prominent mobile payment solution. That though does not guarantee that Google Wallet will unseat Apple Pay. In fact, it really doesn’t do anything to the conversation until retailers begin embracing the service. However, the move to acquire Softcard definitely goes a long way to creating competition.
Google noted that in bringing Softcard onboard with them, they would be “acquiring some exciting technology and intellectual property from Softcard to make Google Wallet better.” Perhaps the biggest advantage Google Wallet has is the fact that it does not require the latest-and-greatest in terms of handset to use. While the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have been incredibly popular, and Apple has moved an astronomical number of those devices, Google Wallet functions on any device running KitKat 4.4 or higher, which means more devices would be able to use such a device. At the end of the day though, the mobile payment landscape is incredibly young, and it is far too early to crown a winner. Not even Apple has done that, and they’ve already gotten the support of the federal government – as the United States announced that they would begin accepting Apple Pay this fall for some purchases.