Before phones were built with Near Field Communication chips to support contactless payments, they were built with accelerometers, which Bump Technologies used to move funds by letting users clink their phones together.
PayPal was an early supporter of Bump, whose technology could simulate an NFC payment by moving money when users' phones sensed they were being tapped together. But PayPal dropped Bump from its mobile app this year when it launched the PayPal Here mobile wallet — and it says it has no plans to bring Bump back.
PayPal still supports contactless payments, such as those made from Android phones built with NFC chips, but it removed Bump “to create a more streamlined user experience for our customers, focusing on features they used most frequently and allowing us to expand the app’s usage for offline payments,” Jenn Hakes, PayPal's senior manager for corporate communications, said in an emailed statement. “As of right now, there are no plans to reinstate this feature into the PayPal consumer app.”
So where does that leave Bump? Only a year ago, Bump was the talk of the industry and was behind Apple’s No. 7 ranked most downloaded free app. Just last month, the Bump app reached more than 100 million downloads.
Bump attributes its popularity to its diverse functions. It has recently focused on its photo-sharing capabilities – photo bump, for transferring photos between phone and computer — and launched Flock, a system for sharing photos among friends, family and acquaintances.
In this regard, Bump has followed the example other tech vendors such as Passfaces, which originally pitched its visual authentication tool to banks before finding success in other markets.
But Bump hasn't abandoned payments. In March, around the time PayPal removed Bump from its mobile app, Bump launched Bump Pay, an app that lets users continue to move funds between PayPal accounts. Both the sender and recipient must have Bump Pay installed, and otherwise the system functions in the same tap-to-pay manner as it did as part of PayPal's app. Senders pay a fee for transfers funded from credit cards linked to their PayPal accounts. They do not pay a fee for transfers funded from linked checking accounts.
“Our goal is to make products that are intuitive and solve problems that people have in their daily lives,” says David Lieb, co-founder and CEO of Bump, in an email. “The Bump Pay app makes the process of exchanging money between friends in person as easy as possible.”
Bump was founded in 2008 by three former Texas Instruments employees as a way to quickly and easily trade business contact information. The company expanded the function of its app over time to include the ability to share photos, music, calendar events and location data.
Some of Bump Technologies' latest ideas are housed in Bump Labs, an internal incubator. Ideas generated here could get woven into the core Bump app.
Bump “is inherently best-suited towards mobile devices and … it seemed like a strange fit [for PayPal],” says Scott Strumello, an analyst at Auriemma Consulting Group.
Investors want to see startup organizations pushing mobile technology, he says. Investors have been happy with Apple and Google’s mobile technological steps, and want to see other startups, such as Facebook, do the same, he says.
“I don’t see PayPal as having any particular need to go mobile; the majority of their business is in the Internet space,” Strumello says. “I don’t see a particularly logical connection, although [the PayPal and Bump partnership] was an interesting announcement.”
According to Auriemma’s research, consumers don’t see payments as a system that needs to be fixed, he says.
“The desire among consumers is pretty limited,” Strumello says. “Consumers don’t see this as solving a need they have right now. It’s just as easy to take out a card as it is to take out a phone.”
While using bump as a payment method might not be a consumer must-have yet, if Bump’s other services gain widespread usage, these consumers might take advantage of the payments piece as well, Strumello says.