Apple isn't the only game in town. Neither is Google. To allow mobile payments across all smartphone types, companies such as ZooZ encourage developers to use HTML5, the latest version of the HTML markup language.
Since HTML is used to create Web pages, an app written in HTML5 can be interpreted easily by many Web-connected devices. Even apps that are written for a specific mobile environment, such as Apple's iOS, can use HTML5 as their foundation.
"Our vision is to provide a technological platform for others to enable multiple payment options, and we really want to standardize mobile checkout," Oren Levy, CEO and co-founder of ZooZ, said in an interview.
ZooZ provides the backbone for in-app payments; it does not provide an app directly to consumers. Its payment system allows purchases of virtual and physical goods funded by credit cards, PayPal and other established payment mechanisms. Once users enroll their device, ZooZ stores their payment details to be accessed for further purchases by typing a PIN.
ZooZ, an Israeli company, took its name from both an ancient form of currency in the Middle East and the Hebrew word for "move." The name is meant to convey the concept of mobile money, Levy says.
ZooZ announced its HTML5 software development kit on May 30. It also offers kits for Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating systems.
Apple and Google urge developers to create apps that are native to their own mobile platforms. As a result, an app written for iOS will not run on Android, for example. Developers of native apps also must adhere to specific rules about things such as how they handle payments.
"An app in HTML5 works cross-platform without writing code separately for each and every platform. … With HTML5, you're bypassing a lot of these headaches," Levy says.
The headaches are sometimes worth it. Native apps generally are smoother, faster and more multimedia-rich than HTML5 apps are, he says. But the gap is closing. "I've seen some HTML5 apps that are almost as good as native apps on iOS and Android," Levy says.
Still, the limitations of HTML5 are well-known, says Jacob Jegher, a senior analyst at Celent.
With HTML5, "the standards are up in the air to some degree," he says. "It can't do everything."
Many banks are looking at HTML5 to more easily support the increasingly varied number of devices consumers use to access accounts and make payments, Jegher says. But HTML5 is not going to replace the development of native apps.
"It's just an approach," he says. "It's more of a business model."
Bank of America in particular has been vocal about its use of HTML5 to design software for tablets that looks like a standard app. The Web-based approach facilitated by HTML5 also allows the bank to design for devices that have restrictions on which apps they can run, such as employer-issued BlackBerrys. (see story)
DataArt Solutions, the vendor that developed a Kindle Fire app for the prepaid card company Plastyc, also is seeing programmers express interest in "trying to ride the next wave, which is HTML5," Alexei Miller, an executive vice president and partner at DataArt Solutions, said in an interview in early May. (see story)