Softcard Concedes the Mobile Wallet Race

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Mere days after disclosing that Google Inc. purchased Softcard's technology and intellectual property, the telcos' mobile wallet venture began publically disclosing its plans to shut down.

The venture of AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA is now encouraging Android users to download Google Wallet, though Google's app cannot import payment credentials from Softcard.

Softcard informed its customers Feb. 25 in a notice on its website. The Softcard for Windows Phone app is also being terminated without an alternative in place.

Google's deal with the telcos allows the search giant to have its wallet pre-installed on the carriers' Android handsets and access the devices' secure element. The deal eliminates the key competitive barrier Google faced in getting consumers to use its wallet app.

In its early years, Softcard seemed to have several key advantages: distribution through carrier stores, control of the devices' secure element, and cooperation from large issuers like JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. But Softcard's original brand name, Isis, proved toxic once it became more prominently associated with a violent militant group. The product changed its name to Softcard late last year, wiping out all of the brand-building it had done up to that point.

But Softcard came out at a time when Near Field Communication, the contactless technology at its foundation, was not available on enough phones or at enough retail terminals. Apple did its part to change that scenario with its NFC-based Apple Pay.

However, Softcard soon suffered from the retailer backlash against Apple Pay. Some retailers stopped accepting contactless payments after Apple Pay launched, a move that also blocked payments from Softcard and Google Wallet.

Google Wallet will continue to compete against Apple Pay, as well as the rumored Samsung/LoopPay wallet. The retailers that blocked Apple Pay are collaborating on a wallet called CurrentC, which has yet to launch.

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