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Emerging Payments

Android PassWallet Shows What an NFC Apple PassBook Could Be

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Two companies that provide software for digital passes and coupons on Android and iOS devices say they have added Near Field Communication capabilities to allow consumers to redeem those passes by tapping together Android devices.

The pitch being made by Attido Mobile Ltd. is that its PassWallet service on Android devices can now "redeem and beam" the Android versions of the digital passes it offers for Apple's Passbook, despite Apple's long-running avoidance of supporting NFC.

Many companies may try to bring NFC-like capabilities to iOS products because Apple has never provided any indication that it will add the technology to its handsets, says David Kaminsky, analyst for emerging payments with Mercator Advisory Group.

But in the case of Attido's PassWallet software upgrade, it feels more like "Apple bringing a product to Android," Kaminsky says.

Manchester, UK-based Attido accomplished the support of digital coupons in PassWallet with the help of Boston-based Skycore LLC, developers of the codeREADr application that supports redemption of bar-code-based passes on both the Apple Passbook and Attido PassWallet.

"Apple created the Passbook standard for card, coupon and ticket delivery to iOS devices," Andy Nugent, director of Attido Mobile, states in a press release. "My team built PassWallet to fill the gap for the Android platform."

Attido expanded the technology to support NFC redemption on Android through its partnership with Skycore's codeREADr team, Nugent adds.

The addition of NFC allows PassWallet users to redeem passes by tapping their phone against another mobile NFC-enabled phone or NFC reader.

With iOS 6, Apple launched Passbook as an application that can store gift cards, tickets, coupons and other items. A consumer could, for example, link a digital Starbucks card and a Dunkin Donuts card to Passbook, accessing both cards from the same app.

Attido's support of Android NFC tap-and-go payments in PassWallet may not motivate Apple to speed up any plans it has to support NFC payments on its own devices.

"A lot of companies see NFC as very valuable and that they are beating Apple to it," Kaminsky says. "But Apple is waiting until NFC is already established as a popular and profitable technology before they jump into it."

Apple's extremely loyal base of customers isn't likely to jump ship and use an Android phone just because it has NFC, Kaminsky says.

But many industry observers consider Passbook to be Apple's attempt to develop a mobile wallet, starting first with coupons and loyalty functions before overtly making it a payments technology, Kaminsky says.

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