Slideshow 8 Plot Twists in the Mobile Wallet Drama

  • August 14 2015, 10:06am EDT
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The mobile wallet market is constantly changing, often in unexpected ways. Products have evolved dramatically in a very short amount of time, and companies that seemed committed to one strategy a year ago now find themselves on a completely different path.

Samsung Pay Comes to USA Before Europe

Samsung only began testing its mobile wallet in South Korea in July, and there were hints that Samsung Pay would hit Europe next. But in a mid-August reveal, Samsung declared that its wallet's U.S. launch was imminent, with beta testing beginning before the end of the month.

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Starbucks' Fintech Plan Is About Loyalty

Starbucks made a huge commitment to fintech development in early 2014, redefining CEO Howard Schultz's role to give him more time to devote to mobile payments. But instead of white-labeling its successful mobile app, Starbucks has begun working with third parties to extend the reach of its loyalty program.

Wearables Fit In

When Google Glass went off the market, it seemed like the wearables fad had ended. But many companies never gave up. Barclaycard is even betting that consumers will pay to use its payment-capable wristband; Disney World reported wide adoption of its MagicBand; and Nymi is working to combine wristband payments with biometric authentication.

Rite Aid's 180

When Apple Pay launched, Rite Aid took its commitment to the Merchant Customer Exchange's CurrentC wallet so seriously that it blocked all NFC payments: Apple Pay, Google Wallet and even contactless cards. Despite the media backlash, Rite Aid stuck to its decision for almost a year. Finally, in August, the pharmacy chain began accepting all NFC payment options — including Apple Pay — once again.

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With Apple Pay nearing its first anniversary and Samsung and Google set to debut new mobile wallets in the coming months, the Merchant Customer Exchange is likely feeling some pressure to get its own wallet to market after three years of development. But despite predictions of a third-quarter premiere, the venture still hasn't set a launch date.

The P2P Generation

Over the past decade, many companies tried to come out with mobile person-to-person payment platforms, but the concept never seemed to appeal to consumers. The rise of social media changed all of that, with the successful Venmo app benefiting from its built-in social feed. And companies like Facebook and Snapchat are quickly adding P2P capabilities to their own apps.

Less Is More

It was a long-held belief that for a mobile wallet to succeed, it must have some kind of built-in loyalty program to entice consumers to change their payment habits. But Apple Pay launched a year ago as a bare-bones payment service with no such program built-in, and in its 2.0 version it will rely on retailer loyalty programs rather than build an Apple-branded program from scratch.

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Softcard's Hard Sell

After being forced to change its name from "Isis" when a militant group turned the brand toxic, the telco-backed mobile wallet venture Softcard had to find a way to get its new name out. It made the bizarre choice to turn a countertop NFC reader into a wide-eyed puppet called "Tappy." But despite Tappy's best efforts, Softcard had to shut down.