Welcome to What’s Trending In Payments – a weekly look at the most popular, irreverent and important stories the payments industry had to offer over the past five days as judged by social media. Which companies grabbed the most headlines – for better or for worse – this week, and which topics have the industry abuzz with intrigue, laughter or disbelief? Featuring breakdowns from the PYMNTS.com staff and commentary by Karen Webster, here’s our take on what all of you payments peeps thought.
TOPIC ONE: Google Wallet Is Publically Biopsied
Why It’s Hot
Because the rest of the payments world has figured out what we pegged two months ago: Google Wallet has been a giant waste of time and money. Business Week revealed that Google Wallet has cost about $300 million so far, and that it’s been downloaded fewer than 10 million times in the two years since its launch.
The news that Google Wallet is struggling isn’t earth shattering in itself, but the numbers illustrate just what a mess it’s been.
As I said in my piece, the big news wasn’t the flop: that was as predictable as Kim Kardashian and Kayne West are not really going to make it as a couple. But that 10 million people actually downloaded the wallet! Really???? As in as many people as are using the Starbucks wallet? If that is true, then maybe the Google Wallet team should have adhered to the Paul Masson (wine guru for those who need reminding) theory of product development: “release no wine digital wallet before its time.” Yep, you too, can have a Google Wallet, as long as you are willing to ditch your existing handset and carrier and buy one from Sprint. And run around looking for a merchant that accepts NFC. You’d probably need a lot of Paul Masson product after all of that, too.
We’ve written – and accurately predicted – plenty about Google Wallet in the past two months alone. The first piece, penned by Karen, talked about Google Wallet’s demise after its Commerce reorganization hinted at some major struggles. In early May, we discussed why Osama Bedier’s departure from the company was hardly a surprise. And now this week, Karen’s been kind enough to offer Google three options as it still struggles to truly break into payments. Given the track record here, Google would be wise to listen.
Is the stagnant payments platform that’s cost $300 million a flop? I feel like this stretches the boundaries of what can reasonably called a rhetorical question.
Yes. Yes it is a flop.
TOPIC TWO: Apple Kind Of, Sort Of Makes Payments News
Why It’s Hot
Apple is notoriously cryptic about its plans for payments, but this week we caught a few glimpses of moves the technology giant could be looking to make.
At WWDC on Monday, Apple mostly refrained from revealing what it’s plotting with payments, but did reveal that the company has 575 million credit cards in its system: more than any other online retailer. We also learned about an update to iCloud Keychain that could serve as a workaround for NFC.)
On Wednesday, we reported that Apple’s been granted a “key iWallet patent” that establishes interesting rules between primary and subsidiary accounts on iDevices. And just yesterday, we learned that Passbook is getting QR code scanning capabilities with the iOS 7 update.
Ok, so maybe we don’t know much yet. But that’s still more than we knew a week ago.
Hey you. Yeah, you. The Black Swan with the Apple logo around your neck. You seem to be swimming awfully close to the payments pool these days! And some people are really getting freaked out now. It’s one thing to have 575 million iTunes accounts (and I would be willing to be my iTunes playlist that most of them are active users), but it’s another to have captured a user base that controls beaucoup spending power – like 30 percent more spending power than those Android users. You probably know that 75 percent of people making 150k or more own iPhones, and they control more than 70 percent of spend in the US. That’s what scares the bejesus out of people in this space since you could, when you are ready, lay all of that in front of merchants. Sure, there’s a lot more to getting acceptance than that, but your strategy of adding value to people in a non-payments way, first using the phone, is just setting that proverbial payments table. Not to mention the fact that your devices, tablet and phones, are being adopted everywhere by all sizes and shapes of merchant on the acceptance side. Oh, and the fact that you generate zillions of stories and clicks when you really don’t make any payments news is evidence of just how important/powerful/potentially disruptive/all of the above you really are.
The title of this TechCrunch piece says it all: “With iOS 7, Apple Shows It Will Tolerate QR Codes – But Not Further Their Case.” The argument made here is that since Apple didn’t build a general purpose QR code reader – but rather one that works exclusively with Passbook-enabled codes – Apple is actually making QR codes subservient to their app. It’s an interesting take, and well worth the read.
This is a prime example of the power of Apple. Think about what this title really tells us: nothing, right? And yet you probably clicked on the story anyway. As did I. Apple really does make everything cooler.
TOPIC THREE: Brits Booze With Bitcoin
Why It’s Hot
From shady online payments communities to a bar near you! This became a very popular story for us this week, as news spread that British pubs now accept Bitcoin payments. We covered the craze yesterday, and noted that pubs in Norwich, Cambridge, Peterborough and Hackney are all getting in on the trend.
We’re quickly entering the “Tyson Zone” with Bitcoins, in that any story you hear about the virtual currency, no matter how bizarre, is believable.
Eyes. Glazed. Over. And, people complain about the complexity of foreign exchange rates. Well, maybe since it looks so cheap – half pint of beer, only .02 Bitcoins – merchants might think it could get people to consume more. I confess that I don’t spend a lot of time trying to understand Bitcoin since I don’t think it will matter much soon. I also think there’s a “crying in your beer” joke in here somewhere but since I don’t drink beer I am struggling to put it in the proper context, I’ll leave it to you to generate all of the bad “crying in your beer” Bitcoin analogies!
Cabume deserves this distinction for initially covering the Bitcoin breakthrough. For those of you wondering exactly how the system works, users scan a QR code on receipts to convert sterling transactions to Bitcoin. The purchase cited in the report saw a half pint of beer (half pint? Do you even drink, bro?) as costing £1.55 which worked out at 0.0202 Bitcoins. We’ll spare you the math: the exchange rate goes out to nearly £77 for a single Bitcoin.
Maybe the ability to buy beer with virtual currency is a good thing. If you’re heavily invested in Bitcoin, you could probably use come booze to calm your nerves.
We need to take this opportunity to point out our new @PYMNTS_EMEA twitter, which launched just yesterday and will aim to bring you all the latest news from the payments world in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Manned by hashtag-happy Editor Chanel Smith, be sure to give the account a follow to add some international flavor to your daily payments news!