Welcome to 2016 — and at least the seventh year that everyone says will be the year of mobile payments. But it might just be a year that we begin to see some interesting changes take place and new moves being made.
And four business days into 2016, there’s already plenty of big news from some very big players who’d like to change the balance of power, their way, this year.
Ant Financial, the company behind the online payments service Alipay, is closer to going public after it was reported that the company is planning to raise $1.5 billion in its second fundraising round. Ant Financial is known most for its Alipay online payment system, which has become a dominant force across China’s payments industry, now with 350 million registered mobile users.
Amazon’s mobile payments side is all about how it enables commerce via mobile. This week, reports about one of its rising mobile commerce drivers, Alexa — and its mobile apps on the Echo app store — has been growing at a steady rate. New data this week show that the Echo app store has more than 130 apps, which is helping build Amazon’s overall goal of enabling more commerce via its connected devices.
Amazon also announced a deal with Whirlpool to integrate the Amazon Dash button into various Whirlpool appliances — meaning that when the dryer sheets run low and detergent supplies run thin, the machines can order for themselves.
New details emerged about Apple’s P2P plans with the discovery of a recently filed patent. And while patents are often not worth much more than the paper they are printed on, patent details show that Apple’s P2P plans could include enabling payments via messaging, phone calls, email and even calendar invites.
Apple’s week of news continued north of the U.S. border when it was announced that Canadian payment processor company Elavon has begun offering access to Apple Pay for its business across the country. This means that Apple Pay will work with the Elavon contactless POS systems.
News also broke about Apple possibly cutting orders on its newest iPhone 6/6S. Reports indicate that inventories of the phones have swelled since their release in September 2016, and that the manufacturer has been idle for the last two months. That means that production may continue to drag by as much as 30 percent until the sales of iPhones pick back up again. Of course, iPhones are the only way that Apple can distribute the Apple Pay app, so it does have the potential to impact Apple Pay adoption down the road.
While not typically in the mobile payments roundup, General Motors’ OnStar made its way into the mobile commerce news this week with an announcement of its partnership with cloud solutions and mobile software activation company Synchronoss Technologies. OnStar customers will be able to enable mobile-preordering and payment for consumers via their car in advance of reaching a destination, as well as automatic activations for “pay-and-go” service at gas stations.
The term “no news is good news” isn’t always a good thing. As is the case for MCX, we’ve been waiting for 2016 to hit so we could learn more about MCX’s CurrentC mobile wallet plans. But with recent news by once-loyal merchants like Target and Walmart getting into the mobile pay market on their own, 2016 begs the question: Is there still a there-there?
MasterCard started the year off with a bunch of news. Yesterday (Jan. 6), it announced that it partnered with Coin. Coin, as you will recall, is the tech company known for its all in one payments and technology card that can be used at the physical point of sale. Turns out that isn’t Coin’s only act. Coin’s patented technology platform miniaturizes the technology needed to make wearables functional (think long battery life and secure) and interoperable. This means turning watches, wearables, keychains, dresses, sunglasses, gloves, rings and more into commerce (and payment) devices.
The day before that, it announced its initiative with Samsung to bring groceries, literally, to the fridge. The company’s latest announcement is Groceries by MasterCard — a partnership with Samsung that brings a new connected grocery-ordering experience into the home – and right at the fridge. This fridge lets consumers order food and groceries from the latest line of Samsung refrigerators that are embedded with a 21-1/2-inch screen.
And, MasterCard started the week by announcing that Walmart will begin accepting MasterCard’s digital checkout option, MasterPass, to pay online and on mobile. This partnership enables consumers to checkout to pay without entering credentials/personal information for each purchase — instead only needing to click the “Buy With MasterPass” button.
PayPal started the year with a new marketplace partnership in an emerging region where mobile commerce popularity is on the rise: Dubai. Through this new partnership with Aramex, PayPal is able to tap a consumer base across 15 countries in the Middle East/North Africa region, along with more in the U.S., Europe and Southeast Asia. These regions in particular have become hotbeds for mobile commerce, giving a boost to PayPal’s mobile commerce footprint.
Samsung yesterday (Jan. 6) announced that Samsung Pay will launch in Australia, Brazil and Singapore. This follows its initial launch of South Korea and the U.S. Next on the docket is expected to be expansion in China, Spain and the U.K. Samsung also announced that its new Gear S2 smartwatches will support Samsung Pay in South Korea and the U.S. in early 2016.
In other big news of the day, Samsung also announced its newest smartwatch, the Gear S2, would be compatible with Apple’s iOS, which creates an interesting relationship between the two rival companies (also two of the world’s largest smartphone makers).
In late 2015, the news broke that Starbucks would be pairing with Alipay and its delivery platform. And in the first week of 2016, it already had analysts calling Starbucks’ next move: the idea that Starbucks will launch its Mobile Order & Pay and delivery service in China sometime in 2016. Perhaps we’ll confirm that when Starbucks reports its earnings later this month.