7 changes to major mobile wallets

  • March 24 2017, 10:40am EDT

Technology never stands still, and even the most successful mobile wallets in the market need to keep pace with the needs of consumers and merchants. A few are making changes that position them for new markets and platforms in the near future.

Starbucks, gifting and iMessage

The Starbucks mobile app has always been about taking care of a customer's personal needs, including replenishing card accounts and ordering ahead. The company said during a shareholder meeting this month that it will expand the app's capabilities to include gifting over Apple's iMessage platform.

The move somewhat follows the example of rival coffee seller Dunkin Brands, which made digital gifting a centerpiece of its own app.

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Chase Pay's tech play

Despite being relatively new, Chase Pay's underlying platform, ChaseNet, began development years earlier. JPMorgan Chase's mobile wallet is designed with merchants' needs in mind, offering lower rates on transactions where both the cardholder and the retailer are Chase clients.

But even this is not enough, as evidenced by Chase's recent deal to buy the assets of the Merchant Customer Exchange, a merchant mobile wallet initiative with which the issuer was already partnered. The MCX technology might address certain consumer needs, such as loyalty and rewards.

Apple Pay goes corporate

Apple Pay's focus has always been on consumer payments at the point of sale, and U.S. Bank is hoping to push Apple's mobile wallet out of that comfort zone.

U.S. Bank recently added Apple Pay support for its Visa corporate card accounts, and says it's the first Visa issuer to do so.

“More and more consumers are enjoying mobile payments in their personal life and expect to use the same easy ‘one-handed’ payment solution when they are working and traveling in their professional life,” said Vicky Bindra, Visa’s senior vice president of core products, in a press release.

Android Pay's new audience

Google omitted NFC as a requirement for the first batch of Android Wear smartwatches, but it's showing up in the new line of Android Wear 2.0 devices.

The new smartwatches also seem to be targeting a different market than the first batch, which included several budget-priced models. Movado, for example, plans to sell designer watches under its Hugo Boss and Tommy Hilfiger brands, with prices starting at $495.

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Wells Fargo's cardless future

Wells Fargo's plans to expand cardless ATM access to all of its 13,000 U.S. ATMs this month is only the beginning. The system now uses a PIN code sent to the user via text message, a straightforward process that is not entirely seamless.

Later this year, Wells Fargo plans to replace the eight-digit PIN with a contactless system, enabling the smartphone to be held near a reader on the ATM to withdraw money.

LG and Dynamics

The latest version of LG Pay seems to use Samsung Pay's method of simulating magnetic stripe signals from a wireless phone, but the technology actually comes from a different source: Dynamics, a company perhaps better known for producing multi-account payment cards that have controls built into the plastic.

As with Samsung Pay (which uses technology from LoopPay, a company Samsung acquired), LG Pay requires special hardware built into the phone for its magnetic-stripe emulation to operate. The LG G6 will be the first smartphone with the proper hardware, though handsets might get the app through a software update.

Alexa's mobile commerce ambitions

Alexa, the Amazon.com digital assistant, seems to be positioned just outside the mobile wallet market. But that may soon change.

Amazon has recently enabled a few commerce-focused capabilities such as pizza ordering and Amazon Prime Now deliveries, complementing Alexa's existing ties into Amazon's main catalog.

This may not seem like much yet, but with the news that Alexa is coming via software update to the Huawei Mate 9 smartphone and to the Amazon iPhone app, many of Alexa's capabilities will make their way into customers' pockets.