The hype regarding mobile and wearable payments is continuing to intensify. Jawbone, a popular maker of fitness bands and accessories, is rumored to be announcing a partnership with American Express later this week. Unnamed sources have suggested a future wearable product from Jawbone will allow users to make payments via American Express at retailers who support NFC-based payment options at check-out terminals.
This rumor comes on the heels of Apple’s announcement that the Apple Watch will support the NFC-based mobile payment service Apple Pay that was introduced last fall with the release of the iPhone 6. Android users have had the ability to use Google Wallet to make mobile payments with their NFC-equipped smartphones since the app was released on September 19, 2011. However, although users are able to store debit, credit cards, loyalty cards, and gift cards in Google Wallet the mobile payment service has not generated a significant amount of hype and consumer awareness.
The release of Apple Pay last fall, whether you care to admit it or not, pushed mobile payments into the limelight in ways not seen before. Since the release of Apple Pay, there has been a major push amongst major players in the smartphone and wearables industry to solidify their mobile payment platform, as the de facto standard for mobile payments. On February 23, 2015 Google announced its acquisition of its main Android competitor Softcard, which was backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. The carrier backed Softcard greatly hampered the adoption of Google Wallet as carriers refused to support Google’s platform in favor of Softcard.
Another noteworthy shift in the mobile payments space, was Samsung’s acquisition of LoopPay in February, 2015. Unlike its NFC-based competitors, Google Wallet and Apple Pay, LoopPay developed a unique technology called Magnetic Secure Transmission that gives it the ability to turn any traditional swipe or chip based terminal into a contactless reader. Technically, LoopPay will work at any payment terminal, NFC-equipped or otherwise. Samsung officially announced its own mobile payments service, Samsung Pay, which utilizes the LoopPay technology at the unveiling of the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge in March at Mobile World Congress. Although it has not been officially rolled out yet, Samsung Pay should have a significant impact on the mobile payments space given the unique technology it utilizes and the improved fingerprint scanner found on the Galaxy S6.
How Jawbone’s potential solution will fare given the intense competition in the mobile payments space is unknown. Whether it will also seek partnerships with Visa and Master Card is also a noteworthy question as partnerships with financial institutions and vendors has a significant impact on the usefulness of any mobile payments solution. Hopefully, Jawbone will answer these questions when it makes an official announcement later this week. With competition between major companies in mobile at a feverish pitch, 2015 should be an incredibly tumultuous and interesting year for mobile payments.