It seems that in the war to win over the first wave of early mobile wallet adopters, there will be significant competition between Apple and Google, and the latter recently upped the ante once again ahead of its main rival.
Google Wallet has been available to the general public for close to a year now but adoption has been relatively slow. With this in mind, and because of growing speculation that Apple's next smartphone, the iPhone 5, will come with mobile wallet-capable near-field communications technology, Google plans to once again expand its existing service, according to a report from the San Jose Business Journal. In a recent question and answer session on YouTube, the head of product management for Google Wallet, Robin Dua, revealed a number of new services into which the platform might branch out in the near future.
More than just credit cards
One of the biggest differences between the potential Apple wallet product and Google's existing offering is that there are rumors the former might be connected with a new smartphone application known as Passbook, the report said. That app would allow users to store not just credit card information – if at all, in the first iteration of the program – but also things like airline boarding passes, gift cards, event tickets and more. Dua said Google will likely try to branch out in this direction as well.
"One of the types of things we're trying to do is make it easy for airlines, transit providers, and other types of issuers of credentials to make it super simple for them to get their credentials stored in the wallet," Dua said, according to the report. "That's the goal. We want you to be able to leave your leather wallet at home and carry your phone and transact with that as your primary transaction device."
Both systems will likely also use their phones' built-in GPS systems to let users know if they have any saved up rewards points or leftover balances on gift cards at a business they might be near, the report said. This could be a boon to businesses of all kinds as well as to users, who may be able to take advantage of deals before they expire.
Market getting crowded
Of course, Apple and Google are just two companies trying to get into the mobile wallet industry, the report said. There will likely also be competition from digital payment processors such as PayPal and Square, as well as major companies from other sectors, such as AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon's Isis program. All will be vying for a spot at the table and on consumers' smartphones.
But Apple and Google obviously have a leg up on the competition in this regard, the report said. They are the companies that make the two most widely-used smartphone operating systems, iOS and Android, meaning that their mobile wallet programs will come standard with consumers' smartphones, and any other competitors will then have to be sought out by users.
Where the platforms can go
Theoretically, the hope for these mobile payment and data storage platforms is that they can one day supplant most kinds of traditional wallet functions, the report said. Instead of toting around a credit card, debit card, gift cards and more, consumers could just have them all saved on their smartphones. The same could be true of other items usually kept in wallets, including IDs.
Of course, consumers are currently somewhat hesitant to adopt this type of technology because they have some concerns over the safety of the systems. Experts have often noted that these issues can really only be assuaged over time, meaning that only the use of the systems will convince consumers they are safe to use as long as all proper precautions are taken.
Perhaps the larger hurdle is that there are currently only a small handful of smartphones on the market capable of handling mobile wallet transactions. That issue is one more easily addressed by manufacturers, and a mass rollout of new, NFC-equipped smartphones is expected to come from a number of companies in the next year. The iPhone 5, for example, could be available by the autumn.
However, even improved data security isn't enough to fully protect a consumer's finances. If you are worried about the safety of all your various accounts, it might be a good idea to begin regularly checking your monthly bills and statements, as well as order copies of your credit report. By checking the latter document for unfair markings, you may be able to find entries that are having an undue negative effect on your credit score.