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Apple Pay rival CurrentC may delay launch until next year

The payments app backed by Walmart and Target might not be ready for a national launch as expected this year, according to a report.

Apple Pay is already available, but it will eventually be joined by MCX's CurrentC. James Martin/CNET

A consortium of retailers developing an alternative to mobile-payment platforms Apple Pay and Samsung Pay might have to delay its national rollout until next year.

CurrentC, the mobile-payment platform developed by the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), will kick off a public beta within the next few weeks in Columbus, Ohio, but may not push its service across the US until 2016, MCX CEO Brian Mooney told Recode in an interview published Wednesday. MCX, which has been working on its mobile-payment platform for three years, had initially planned to launch the service across the US in 2015.

MCX did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation and comment on Mooney's statements.

Although Mooney reportedly cast the delay as a way for MCX to get its product "right," it could provide an opening to companies like Apple that are already offering mobile-payment platforms, and even those who will soon enter the space, like Samsung and Google.

Still, MCX is widely viewed as a potential powerhouse in a crowded mobile-payments space. The company has the backing of some of the world's largest retailers, including Walmart, Target, Kohl's, and Best Buy. Not content allowing third parties to handle mobile payment transactions on their own, the companies came together last year under the MCX banner, saying they would roll out CurrentC at their 110,000 locations around the US. Collectively, the retailers process over $1 trillion in annual transactions.

When CurrentC finally hits the retail space, it'll be presented with a slew of competitors. In addition to Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, a host of other companies, including PayPal, are all eyeing ways to make a splash in the nascent mobile-payments industry. There is broad consensus that, in the future, consumers will increasingly turn to their smartphones to make payments, believing that the option is more secure and convenient. So far, however, mobile payments represent just a small sliver of the retail transaction space.

The barriers to entry for both companies and consumers can be high. After developing a platform that must be both secure and usable, mobile wallet providers need to sign on credit card companies to support their cards. The companies must also sign deals with retailers. Consumers, meanwhile, must determine which of their cards are supported and question whether certain retailers accept their desired platform.

Actually using mobile wallets also requires some legwork. Users must input their credit cards into secure wallets on devices that support near-field communication technology that beams data from a phone to a receiver when it's within close proximity. Depending on the service, users may be required to physically open their phones and tap a card in order to activate the feature. Apple Pay requires users to hover their fingers over its Touch ID fingerprint sensor to allow for a transaction.

The firms are still working out just how to share the marketplace. Last October, for instance, two of MCX's retailers -- Rite Aid and CVS -- announced that they would not support Apple Pay, which launched in October. Finally, this week, Rite Aid relented and announced it would start accepting Apple Pay. Best Buy, another MCX firm and Apple Pay holdout, announced support for the iPhone maker's service in April. For its part, MCX said all along that it was not blocking its retail partners from accepting Apple Pay.

Meanwhile, Apple has worked to sign on credit card companies. At launch, the service did not support American Express cards, leaving millions of people across the US out of luck. That changed on Monday when Apple said that it now would support American Express in addition to Visa, MasterCard, and Discover.

Looking ahead, CurrentC has its own issues to face. MCX will have no trouble getting its retail owners to sign on, but getting it will need to get others to join in if it's to offer consumers broad usage. CurrentC also only works with retailer credit cards, gift cards, and bank accounts. MCX has not ruled out support for major credit cards, but has not said when, or if, it'll offer such an option.

For now, though, the company says time is on its side. In his interview with Recode, Mooney said that mobile payments "is a long game" and he doesn't want to rush his company's platform before it's ready.