Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New Wallet On The Way: PayPal and iCache

It's easy to think about a smartphone as a cash register.  It's not so easy to see how that will come to pass.

Google's Wallet, while available as an option in local retailers, just doesn't have much use since it was launched in August.  Google bit hard on the widespread adoption of Near Field Communications systems in smartphones.  My phone doesn't have NFC, does yours?

Last week, PayPal introduced their wallet plans at SXSW.  It will bring a whole new interface to the 106 million PayPal users and enables several different payment instruments and methods to work via smartphones and other mobile devices.  As a "wallet in the cloud" it can go anywhere a user can sign into their PayPal account, even if their smartphone is not available.

What is not mentioned in the video demos is anything about POS interactions.  Most "heavily engaged"PayPal users consider the service as safer than supplying credit card information to e-commerce web sites.  We would like to see PayPal generate QR codes for merchants to display in stores, along with an enhanced smartphone app that enables scanning and purchasing without a cash register.

To spice things up, iCache has launched a brilliant card-holding wallet that promises to make your smartphone into any card you like.  The Geode is currently seeking $50k to move into the manufacturing phase.  It is actually a smartphone case that includes a small e-ink screen that displays your card of choice via barcode, and a slip-out read/write card that can be swiped as needed.  The case includes a bio-metric scanner that will only open the app when the correct finger is presented.

Until these visions come to pass, Square seems to be gaining traction with their combination of Card Case and Register systems.

Bitmenu's system design anticipated consumer acceptance of "safer than plastic" solutions for purchasing. Buyers use their existing Amazon or PayPal accounts to purchase and can choose how to fund those accounts without worrying about sharing their financial information with individual Bitmenu Sellers.  For their part, Bitmenu Sellers benefit from the massive theft and fraud protection they get from these two services.

UPDATE:  3/16
Today PayPal introduced the PayPal Here POS system for iPhones.  This is going head-on with Square.