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The Mobile Wallet Scorecard: Which Technology Is Winning?

(Image: ThinkStock)

Against NFC Against NFC

“Bar code is a technology that any smartphone and that most merchants can handle today,” said the Merchant Customer Exchange's Dodd Roberts. Though he left open the possibility that the venture could consider NFC in the future, "MCX wants consumers to be able to use the smartphone they have today," he said. (Image: ThinkStock)

For NFC For NFC

The mobile carriers' Isis venture has a plastic card attached, but it is focused primarily on NFC. The Isis app is designed to work on phones with an NFC chip, and the app also helps consumers find merchants that can accept NFC payments.

For NFC For NFC

Google is rumored to be adding a plastic card to its Google Wallet app, but that hasn't materialized yet. For now, the company remains committed to using NFC-equipped phones and tablets to handle payments. (Image: Bloomberg News)

Against NFC Against NFC

PayPal is committed to a primarily cloud-based digital wallet, with plans to test specific use cases in 2013. It supports NFC as an option on some phones, but it's a feature the company barely ever mentions. (Image: Bloomberg News)

For NFC For NFC

The card networks are active in several mobile wallet systems in other regions. Visa is working with Vodafone in Europe and Australia on an NFC wallet, and MasterCard is working with Deutsche Telekom on a separate NFC product. (Image: Bloomberg News)

Against NFC Against NFC

Starbucks has shown a willingness to adapt its mobile card app over time. First, it modified it to work with the scanners at Target stores. More recently, it has updated the app to work with Square Wallet and Apple's Passbook. However, the coffee seller has stuck to the same basic approach of using a software-based system instead of NFC. (Image: Bloomberg News)

Too Close to Call? Too Close to Call?

So far it's a tie. But a few companies could soon emerge as tiebreakers. (Image: ThinkStock)

LevelUp LevelUp

SCVNGR's LevelUp added NFC support to its mobile-payment system last year in anticipation of an NFC-equipped iPhone. Apple never built such a phone, but LevelUp appears ready to promote NFC when the time is right.

Apple Apple

Rumors swarm year after year that Apple will build an NFC-based "iWallet." So far all we've got is Passbook, which aggregates other companies' software-based wallets, but already there is speculation that this year Apple will finally take the NFC plunge. (Image: Bloomberg News)

Square Square

Square has previously updated its hardware to support new technology, such as encryption. Could it add NFC too? Right now there doesn't seem to be a reason to, since Square's more probable next step would be to push greater use of the software-based Square Wallet. Pictured: Square CEO Jack Dorsey (Image: Bloomberg News)

Weve Weve

Formerly Project Oscar, Weve began as a telco-backed NFC mobile payment system —the UK's equivalent of Isis. However, its name change coincided with a shift in strategy. Though it remains NFC-based, Weve for now is focused more on marketing than payments. (Image: ThinkStock)

Discover/American Express Discover/American Express

Discover and Amex seem to be betting on more than one horse. Amex's Serve wallet is software-based, but it already works with the NFC-based Isis wallet. Discover was Isis' first network partner, but it is also the key partner in PayPal's strategy for bringing a software-based wallet to the point of sale. (Image: ThinkStock)

Walmart and the other Merchant Customer Exchange members recently announced they would opt for a software-based mobile wallet instead of one based on Near Field Communication hardware. Is this a blow to NFC's future or does the technology have enough supporters to eventually change how people pay?

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