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It’s claimed that smartphones will replace our wallets one day, centralizing our bank and credit card information so we’ll always have them on hand. Making our financial information readily available through the cloud could even subsidize the negative impacts when we misplace our smartphones instead of our wallets, though security remains an issue in this new area. The result is a bubbling anxiety over mobile wallet standards, especially as the dominant platforms iOS and Android fight for patrons with two very different methods.
Android is bolstered by Google Wallet, a mobile payments service that ties your bank card to your smartphone. It can be used with NFC technology for making in-store purchases, as well as online shopping and Google Play digital purchases. Also integrated with your Google Wallet account are loyalty cards and local discounts, creating a faster way to pay for items and an easier way to save on those purchases.
Apple is taking a decidedly different route, creating its own platform with the recently-launched Passbook for managing purchases, and then some. With Passbook you can buyand retain discounts, movie ticket purchases and flight boarding passes to name a few. The method leaves little room to integrate third-party technology such as NFC, and forces brands to sign-up for the Apple-centric service. But one app is finding a way to extend Passbook’s features to Android users.
Welcome to Android, PassWallet
PassWallet for Android grants access to your Passbook files (called PKPass files), which are synced from an iOS device and sent to your Android-powered smartphone. From here you can access and manage coffee shop loyalty cards, boarding passes, movie tickets and coupons from a single app.
What PassWallet has that Google Wallet doesn’t is a retail-centric approach for interacting with brands like Walgreens, Fandango and TicketMaster. Associated with your Passbook account, the PassWallet app is also a secure way to access your tickets and coupons. Security remains an issue for Google Wallet, which relies on NFC technology and its proliferation throughout the retail industry. While Google Wallet has made improvements to the security offerings underlying its mobile payment platform, industry standards have a ways to go before they offer a true alternative to the wallet.
On the downside, PassWallet is a third party gateway to a proprietary Apple service, which means it could be shut down at any time. If Apple finds PassWallet is competing with its own Passbook, or decides it doesn’t want PKPass files so readily accessible across platforms, then PassWallet and its Android user base will be up a creek without a paddle. Another snag is the base technology behind Passbook itself, which doesn’t have the history and experience of Google Wallet. Early testing shows that Passbook hasn’t worked out all the kinks, botching two of my movie ticket purchases that resulted in a confusing conversation with the theater manager, who was clueless as to how the service worked.
What the future holds
In time, we’re likely to see more features overlap between Google Wallet and Passbook (and subsequently PassWallet), but for now they remain fundamentally different services that leave the preference up to the consumer. But what this is really about is your financial data, its security and its management from mobile devices.
Google and Apple are fighting a bloody battle over consumer loyalty, so creating a service around mobile wallet technology is just another way into your heart, and your bank account. Consumer trust will determine the winner in the end, along with the perks of convenience. For now Google Wallet has the lead on account management capabilities, extending beyond brands that have chosen to participate in Apple’s Passbook to include purchases you’ve made with Google Wallet. You can view a history of your purchases, request refunds and even make notes on venues you’ve visited, demonstrating Google’s hope to create a fully-functioning financial service from Google Wallet.