The U.K. telco-backed mobile commerce venture Weve is reportedly ending its plans for a universal mobile wallet.
The venture's ownersEverything Everywhere, Telefonica O2OK and Vodafone U.K.could not agree on strategy, the Telegraph reported Sept. 14, adding Weve's telco owners are all working on their own mobile payment projects, which will be challenged to reach iPhone users given Apple Pay's expected move into the U.K. market.
Much of Europe is dominated by Android, but Apple remains a significant player in the U.K., similar to the U.S., said Zil Bareisis, a senior analyst at Celent. The slickness of Apple's approachcombining simplicity, security and reachputs forward a major challenge to traditional Near Field Communication-based payment implementations.
"Add the typical difficulties of getting the industry competitors, such as mobile network operators, to work together, let alone finding a workable model with other ecosystem participants such as banks, and it is not surprising that Weve is abandoning its ambitions in payments," Bareisis said.
Weve did not comment directly on the reported breakup of its NFC wallet. Weve's mandate has always been to explore new commercial opportunities in the mobile commerce arena and to build products and services that makes commercial sense to do so. To date, we have already launched two very successful products in the shape of a messaging and a new advertising display service," said Ginni Arnold, a Weve spokesperson, in an email, adding "our shareholders have their own commercial strategies in relation to payments."
Weve has made a number of strategic shifts in a short period of time. Following some earlier regulatory hurdles, it debuted in 2012 as Project Oscar with plans to become a SIM-based platform for mobile NFC payments. Later that year, the venture changed its name to Weve and shifted its focus to mobile marketing.
But Weve still intended to launch a mobile wallet, and in early 2014 struck a deal with MasterCard to support this effort. Weve would use MasterCard's relationships with banks to enable consumers to link card accounts to their handsets via mobile banking apps. MasterCard did not return a request for comment by deadline.
Weve's joint mobile wallet was slated for introduction in early 2015, and the initiative continued to add technology through 2014, including a digital storage space for loyalty cards. The venture's CEO, David Sear, left Weve in June for a job at Skrill, an online payments company. Sear was replaced by Tim Hipperson on an interim basis.
"Weve has also done a great deal of valuable work exploring opportunities in the U.K. mobile payments space in 2014, yielding insight and developing significant [intellectual property] in this market. We continue to believe there is a great deal of potential in mobile contactless payments and we are currently working on developments where Weve can help streamline the mobile payments process, said Weve's Arnold in an email.
Weve will continue to work on loyalty and marketing, the Telegraph reported. "[Weve] still has a network of merchants and large base of consumers with permissions to send marketing messages to," Bareisis said.
Vodafone is in the midst of a British mobile payments rollout. Telefonica is working with Monitise on mobile payments. Neither company returned requests for comment by deadline.
EE's mobile payment service, Cash on Tap, launched in July 2013 in partnership with MasterCard. Cash on Tap works on the Android platform, with 11 compatible handsets including Samsun Galaxy S5, Sony Xperia Z2, and HTC One Mini 2. It will work with more than 500,000 consumers' handsets by the end of 2014, said EE spokesperson Lucie Smith in an email, adding Cash on Tap is accepted by more than 300,000 retailers in the U.K., including M&S, Pret A Manger, WHSmith, McDonald's, Boots, London's buses and Underground, Tram and other British travel systems. Smith did not say when or if EE would add support for iOS or Apple Pay.