Mobile wallets: Confusion and fragmentation discourage consumer adoption

People carry a wallet that contains important documents, cash, credit cards, and loyalty cards. Thanks to a lack of standards and a desire by companies to get a piece of the pie, I doubt we will see these two merge anytime soon.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

Apple Passbook, Microsoft Wallet, Google Wallet, Samsung Wallet, Isis, Square, and PayPal. These are just a few apps and services trying to help you leave your wallet behind, and unfortunately none of them work well enough to deliver on that promise.

Mobile wallets: Confusion and fragmentation discourage consumer adoption
Image: Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Mobile wallet apps have been around for many years, but in the beginning, they were used primarily to store important data for you to look up when out and about. Google attempted to allow you to pay for things with your Android smartphone with Google Wallet, but carrier control has stifled this initiative.

There is also confusion surrounding Google Wallet, since many thought you needed to use near-field communication (NFC) with just a Google Wallet terminal. Actually, many of these wallet services just use simple barcodes or QR codes to carry out transactions. Even though I have Android smartphones, I cannot use Google Wallet, because my carrier blocks it.

I thought we would see an improvement in electronic wallets with Apple's Passbook, but it's a confusing utility that still has limited support from retailers. You need to install each retailer/vendor application, and then go into that application to enable Passbook functionality so that Passbook really just offers a consistent front end for apps.

I was excited to see Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 Wallet hub, but again it works just about like Passbook and requires third-party apps that you then can tie in to Wallet. There is a bit more direct credit card support in WP8 Wallet, but Microsoft and Apple should be providing a service like FidMe that lets you easily enter loyalty cards into a single application.

According to The Verge Samsung showed off its new Samsung Wallet application during a developer conference at Mobile World Congress (MWC). It looks a lot like Apple's Passbook app for iOS, and has some of the same location-based functionality, likely with the same lack of support from retailers and carriers.

There is hope that Isis may gain wider carrier support, but that remains to be seen, and I am no longer jumping on every mobile payment service that pops up.

I don't think people are as scared about security today, as they can easily lock their smartphones and wallet apps, but they just want a consistent experience that allows them to use an electronic wallet for everything. If people still need to carry a wallet for some cards and documents, then the convenience of having a wallet on your smartphone is minimized.

Even as a smartphone early adopter, I find the world of mobile wallets and payments to be a confusing mess, with fragmentation across the board. This is not what people want when it comes to their money, and I don't see anyone replacing their wallet with a smartphone for many years.

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