The war for mobile payments -- the ability to pay at the cash register with your smarpthone -- is heating up.
Google said on Monday that it's partnering with Softcard, a joint venture between Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile to expand the reach of its Google Wallet mobile payment service. As part of the deal, Google acquired Softcard's technology, while the US carriers would load the Google Wallet app onto Android smartphones running KitKat or higher in their stores later this year.
The deals come amid heightened interest in mobile payments thanks to Apple Pay, which has finally encouraged consumers to tap their smartphones at the cash register to make payments. Apple Pay, like Google Wallet, utilizes a technology called near-field communications (NFC) to allow the phone to talk with the point-of-sale terminal. Upping the ante is Samsung, which last week.
Apple is a relative newcomer when it comes to mobile payments, only introducing Apple Pay in the fall with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Google and Softcard, previously known as Isis, have worked for years to raise awareness for mobile payments.
Both ran into roadblocks on broad acceptance of their respective services. Google had a single carrier partner in Sprint, and not all of its smartphone partners cared to put NFC into their smartphones. Likewise, Softcard had the backing of the three major carriers, but few other partners. Retailers were also slow to upgrade to NFC-enabled terminals, a problem even Apple deals with today.
Softcard customers can continue to use its app, the venture said in a separate blog post. It said there would be more information in the coming weeks.