TechCrunch reports today that Google has expanded handset support for its Wallet to include the Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy Note II and HTC One on Sprint, and the Galaxy Note II on US Cellular. The troubled service is now available on 13 smartphones as well as two Nexus tablets distributed through Google Play.
But Google’s announcement also hints at its biggest challenge with Google Wallet: A lack of support from three of the nation’s four biggest carriers. Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile USA have all spurned Google Wallet as they scramble to build out their own mobile payment system, dubbed Isis. (T-Mobile actually took to its Twitter account yesterday to claim that Isis is “the wireless payment standard for mobile devices,” which is a laughable statement.)
The carriers’ position here is even more ridiculous considering how poorly Isis is catching on. My colleague Stacey Higginbotham discovered an alarming lack of retailer awareness of the system when it launched in Austin last October, and in February backers bragged that the average user in Salt Lake City was conducting five Isis transactions a week — but those backers declined to disclose how many users they were talking about.
The market for NFC-based mobile payments continues to face huge hurdles including a lack of handset penetration, paltry retailer support, security concerns and business models that still must be developed. But the biggest problem is that an abundance of competing “solutions” that prevent the market from consolidating around one or two systems. This week’s news is just the latest reminder that too many cooks are spoiling the mobile payments soup.