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The launch of Apple Pay may have been the most impactful announcement of any tech firm this year. The tech titan with the Midas touch and customer experience extraordinaire will finally make mobile payments work where so many other have stumbled. I will finally be able to leave my wallet at home and transact anywhere I want with my (ever bigger) smart phone. Great!!
Well, great that is if you are an Apple iPhone user. But if you are like me and roughly 51% of smart phone users in the US, you have no access to Apple Pay because you have an Android phone.
This is a major problem for banks joining Apple Pay. As a bank, you want your mobile services to be available to 100% of your customers. Just imagine providing remote check deposit functionality to only your iPhone users and none to your Android users.
The scale of the problem is even bigger on a global level. According to the research firm IDC, 85% of smart phones shipped globally in the second quarter of 2014 were running Android. And that market share is up considerably from 80% at the end of 2013.
So, where is my Android Pay?
Android is no iOS
You would be hard pressed to find a mobile payment solution that will fill the needs of banks and merchants on the Android ecosystem. The Android platform’s own “open” nature makes it almost impossible for a single wallet to dominate the entire market. Just ask Google! Google Wallet, launched in 2011, has struggled to gain traction after being blocked by most mobile phone operators out there.
The Android open ecosystem provides a level playing field for all players. Banks, merchants, tech companies, mobile operators and OEMs each can develop their own application for payment running on Android. That may make development slower, as no single entity can push a solution for all, but can also generate innovation and exciting user experiences with more players trying different approaches.
The underlying technology is there
Funny thing is that there are actually a lot more Android devices equipped with the same Near Field Communications (NFC) technology that allows for Apple Pay style proximity payments. IHS Research estimates a total of 420 million NFC-enabled devices to ship in 2014, the great majority of them Android smart phones.
First of all, there probably won’t be an “Android Pay.” The incredible distribution of power between the players in the Android ecosystem ensures there will be multiple solutions for payments in Android. Google Wallet will be just one of them. But the ones that seem to have the most to gain from Android’s openness are the ones that already have apps in my phone.
Today I already have dozens of apps in my phone. These keep being updated with new functionality. Why couldn’t I just get an update on my banking app and have payment functionality added in the same way check deposit was added? Why not add payment functionality to my Home Depot or Macy’s app instead of having to sign-up for a brand