Boost Mobile wants to be its customers' digital wallet

Boost has tested the service in three markets, and plans to roll out the service to the entire country by the end of the year.

Boost's Android app and prepaid card. Roger Cheng/CNET

LAS VEGAS -- Sprint Nextel's prepaid arm, Boost Mobile, is taking its own stab at the digital wallet.

The company on Tuesday unveiled its Boost Mobile Wallet program, which is an Android application that allows its prepaid customers to manage their funds, transfer funds, send money overseas, and pay bills.

While the heavy-hitters such as Google and Isis -- which is a joint venture between Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and T-Mobile -- are going after the high-end, tech-savvy user with their own digital wallets, Boost is going the opposite route. The company is instead targeting customers who tend to deal with cash, and don't have other bank accounts.

In the prepaid market, about 20 percent of the user base falls under this category, which represents an opportunity for Boost, according to Kevin McGinnis, vice president of product development for Sprint.

Customers are able to deposit cash into an account -- which is stored in the cloud -- through Boost dealers, which will get a financial incentive by Sprint to encourage customers to use the service. In addition to the app, customers will get a Visa prepaid card that's linked to the account. The service is being powered by mobile payment provider Wipit.

The Android app is available on Google Play, and is protected by a personal identification number. The company is working with dealers to ensure it will be available nationwide by the end of the year. Boost has been testing the service in three markets -- Los Angeles, San Diego, and Northern New Jersey -- and plans to begin the national rollout in June.

Sprint plans to take a cut of any transaction or deposit, which it argues is a better experience than the typical check-cashing and money transfer services currently available.

Sprint has stood apart from the other carriers when it comes to its move into mobile payments, which has attracted players from a wide variety of industries. While the other three national carriers aligned behind their own initiative, Sprint hopped on the Google Wallet bandwagon. But with Google Wallet seeing limited consumer adoption, Sprint is looking to branch out on its own through Boost.

For customers who have bank accounts and credit cards, mobile payments don't offer a huge change in the experience.

"There's nothing broken with plastic," McGinnis said.

But it's with this unique prepaid demographic where Sprint believes it has an opportunity. McGinnis said that if it becomes popular, the company would look to expand the service across its different brands.

 

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