​Semble transforms Androids into mobile wallets in New Zealand

Semble has launched an app and SIM card in New Zealand that can turn Android-enabled devices into mobile wallets where users can complete tap-and-go transactions at any contactless terminal.

New Zealand mobile wallet consortium Semble has launched an app that will allow Android-enabled devices around New Zealand to make secure mobile payments using only their smartphones.

The free-to-download Semble app, together with a Semble Ready SIM card, which houses a chip that is similar to those used in credit and debit cards, allows users to hold their smartphone over any contactless terminal to conduct a tap-and-go transaction.

Semble is a consortium supported by all of the major New Zealand mobile telcos and two of the big four banks, ASB and BNZ, as well as payment network Paymark.

Semble CEO Rob Ellis said the collaboration is likely to be used by close to 1 million Android smartphone owners across New Zealand.

"Semble is a natural evolution of how we already use our smartphones for so many different things on a day-to-day basis. Merging the wallet with the smartphone is the obvious next step," he said.

"It was important to design a product using the highest international security standards while still being something that's easy for Kiwis to use and simple for businesses to join."

The company added that the vision for the solution is that it will replace all cards. Off the back of this, Snapper, New Zealand's contactless payment system, has been announced as the first partner. From June, Snapper cardholders will have the ability to use their Android smartphones instead of their Snapper cards, such as to pay for public transport, parking, or taxi rides.

"We look forward to welcoming many more service providers to the Semble marketplace, including more banks as well as loyalty cards, public transport cards, ticketing, offers, vouchers and much more," Ellis said.

Semble also announced that from April, it will begin trialling special offers for redemption at the point of sale using the Semble app. It has initially partnered with burger brand BurgerFuel to do this.

The launch of the Semble app comes following a pilot the company commenced in November 2014 with 250 users in Auckland and Wellington.

However, not all New Zealand retailers have welcomed Semble. Mane Salon, a Wellington hair salon, has instructed its bank not to deploy the new Semble contactless payments systems to its Eftpos terminal, mainly because the retailer prefers bitcoin.

Mane Salon adopted bitcoin in April 2014 to reduce credit card processing fees, and was one of New Zealand's first retailers to do so.

"After implementing a bitcoin trial in April last year, today I've decided to permanently adopt bitcoin as a payment option for customers. I hope that our example illustrates to other retailers that there are viable, lower-cost alternatives to expensive and proprietary credit card-based contactless payment systems," Janine Weatherley, Mane Salon owner, said.

Weatherley said she supports comments made by Xero CEO Rod Drury in 2013 that contactless payments should be considered as Eftpos payments.

"Paywave, Paypass, Semble, and any new Apple payments platform can only add cost to retail transactions, which will inevitably be passed on to consumers -- Eftpos is the envy of the world because it's cheap, universal, and simple -- any replacement must take cost out, not add it in," she said.