Apple’s acquisition of AuthenTec has arguably heightened the awareness for mobile security and boosted the already strong consumer interest in Passbook, a payment feature that allows iPhone–and possibly iPad– users to pay for purchased items and various business services. Perhaps aware of the increasing concerns towards network-related privacy, Google promised to deliver a similarly competent e-payment system with the Google Wallet, which has recently undergone a series of noteworthy changes.
Introduced in 2011, Google’s e-wallet initially evoked disappointment, given that it not only offered shoddy security options, but also limited users to a single credit card option. With the recent overhauls and improvements, users are now able to use a wider variety of credit and debit cards, including those issued by Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover. Whereas in the past sensitive credit card data is stored on the handset, with the new Wallet such information is encrypted and secured on remote cloud servers. If a phone happens to be stolen or lost, users can simply choose to disable the information from an available online browser.
Google’s decision to upgrade its e-wallet feature, along with Apple’s recent move to acquire AuthenTec, is indicative of a number of potential trends. For one, mobile security is likely to receive greater emphasis in the future, which in turn may encourage more and more companies to invest in security-related technologies. At the moment, Microsoft is one of the big names out there that is planning to apply NFC-enabled payment functions and include a loyal card feature in its smartphone.
One other significant trend we can expect to see, following Google’s wallet upgrade, is a more intensified battle between the iOS and Android system. While Apple’s iOS mobile devices have traditionally been the victor in various smartphone and tablet markets, Android has undeniably stepped up its game and is gradually catching up to Apple in terms of gaining loyal followers. Not only has the system amassed immense popularity in Europe (beating the iPhone in certain regions), it is also being embedded in more and more global branded handsets. A practical, safe wallet application is only likely to further Android’s popularity and pose more strategic problems for Apple.
According to Gigaom, although only a limited number of current devices are capable of using the new Google’s Wallet, the app nonetheless has the potential to reach out to more people than expected. The Android-based Samsung’s Galaxy S III, for instance, has reportedly sold over 10 million units, and is the perfect host for promoting Google’s wallet application.
It will be interesting to how Apple will strategically respond to the Google and Microsoft’s e-wallet features. While enshrouded in mystery, it is believed that the new iPhone, expected to be released sometime this October, will launch with the Passbook embedded in its system.