Tag Archives: payments

5 year old’s excess in-app purchasing highlights the real issue

So how did a 5 year old rack up such an expensive bill in just 10 minutes? He purchased one bundle of 333 keys, one of 90,000 darts, and another of 333 bombs that each cost 69.99 GBP ($105 USD). A number of smaller purchases added up to the final total. [phoneArena]

I’ve got three kids and we’ve discovered this problem, though thankfully to a much lesser degree. It’s easy for someone without kids to look at this and quickly say it’s bad parenting and you should watch what they are doing more closely. I agree … but the real issue is how the password system works.

When you enter your password for a download (and particularly in iOS) the gate stays open for a period of time allowing in-game purchases or even subsequent downloads through. It’s designed to make life more simple but since there are absolutely NO kid controls or functions it’s pretty easy to fall into the rabbit hole.  Just watch a kid aggressively try to clear the between level BS messaging in most “free” games ….

Samsung Develops Wallet Platform

samsung_wallet_service_framework

So Samsung is finally showing some cards around mobile payments and it looks like they’ve developed a full-up wallet system rather than simply utilize an existing method.  This certainly aligns with their desire to control more of the ecosystem and looks like a strong contender assuming they are able to deliver carrier partnerships as well to enable access across their installable base.

Samsung’s Wallet looks a lot like Apple’s Passbook and that’s a good thing.  While it’s capable of incorporating NFC, the initial proximity solution will be based on scannable codes … just like Passbook.  Again this is a good thing as merchants and brands will (hopefully) only need some slight modification (if any) to enable a second set of passes.

Currently, Wallet is only available as a preview for developers, who can download the SDK and API guides for it now, and the app itself will be available in the near future. Samsung says that it has lined up partnerships with Walgreens, Belly, Major League Baseball Advanced Media, Expedia, Booking.com, Hotels.com, and Lufthansa for the app’s launch, but it won’t be integrated any NFC payment features into Wallet, despite its new partnership with Visa’s PayWave service. When we asked why this was the case, Samsung said retailers prefer barcodes over NFC because they don’t have to install any new infrastructure to support it.  via The Verge.

Given the imminent launch announcement of the Galaxy S IV, the likely sales of millions of devices (much like the S III and Note lines) this could and should get some immediate attention.  Developers can start here.  Earlier this week, MLB (also a Samsung partner) announced support for Passbook at 13 ballparks … with the intentional similarities here from Samsung, perhaps we’ve got a real chance at a standard for how payments get presented.

Mobile Wallet format wars

First a bit of a disclosure. Through work, I have a business relationship with Google and previously MasterCard and over the past few years have spent a pretty considerable amount of time working on and thinking about payments. I’m don’t think I am biased but you can be the judge…

This week another consortium was announced to develop a mobile wallet solution. Merchants like Best Buy and Target (among quite a few others) are looking to develop a format and technology that would allow consumer payments within their stores. It’s not clear how this will work or even when it will arrive. Today it’s simply a press announcement.

Previously, we’ve seen quite a bit of press from Isis a joint effort between Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. While Isis has gotten some solid press, released their web site and some pseudo demo videos try also have yet to launch. Their proposed launch markets of Austin and Salt Lake City still wait …

While Google Wallet has been live for a year growth appears limited by only being directly offered through Sprint on about half a dozen phones. There’s a lot of opportunity for other carriers though the Isis partnership seems like a pretty clear obstacle until that at least makes it out of the gate.

There are other methods of paying with (tapping) your phone today but they involve the use of a sticker as a proxy for your card and in most cases do not offer any proper interface on the phone to receive back the transaction. An SMS is a start but is pretty lame by today’s standards.

Because the traction on NFC has been slow — and depending on which analyst you ask we are anywhere from 3-5 years from mass adoption — there are some rather interesting bridge solutions ready today that add technology into our traditional card mix. The two that get the most attention are Square and LevelUp. Perhaps PayPal deserves a mention here as well as they are pushing rather hard to break through the virtual barrier into traditional commerce. Though even with theor recent merchant deals it seems like a long road ahead. Both Square and PayPal offer dongles to accept card swipes but also have other methods like phone number (PayPal) or simply your name (Square). LevelUp uses the phone screen to present a QR code much like Starbucks does for it’s own system. While Starbucks an Square announced a recent deal (and investment) one won’t replace the other from what I’ve read instead you will simply have another option in store.

The payment networks and banks are also playing here with wallet tech they hope will be adopted though appears to be a very slow train.

And of course the elephant in the room is Apple. They’ve shown about 80% of a wallet in iOS 6 via Passbook. Like many people I’m hopeful that they will go all the way when the next iPhone shows itself in September. While Apple is likely to light a fire it’s unclear if they will stay proprietary or try to define the industry. It’s likely that we will see some quick arranged marriages following their announcements and the organizing committee is already forming.

The worst possible scenario and frankly the direction a lot of this seems to be heading is that the choices create a stalemate. There are already too many similar potential options and not enough differentiation both between players, but even more importantly from today’s way to pay. Unless an actual problem is solved or benefit added its like the industry is simply talking to itself.

PayPal’s Coolest Mobile Wallet Feature: The Oops Button

Good overview of the latest paypal mobile wallet (and offline features) … they have a lot to overcome to become a viable in-store solution.

The most notable feature of PayPal’s mobile wallet is payment flexibility. Users of PayPal’s mobile wallet application will be able to choose how they want to pay for purchases even after the sale. That means a purchase can be transferred to a different credit card, a debit card, a PayPal account or even a store gift card, if necessary, directly through the PayPal app. The payment could also be split between multiple cards/payment sources.

via Forbes.

Where is PayPal’s gateway to real world payments?

I just caught a post on Techcrunch that got me thinking about PayPal’s mobile strategy a bit … Apparently they’ve finally released a Symbian client following the long(er) standing clients for Blackberry, iOS and Android.

Apple and Google’s competing plans for NFC and the likelihood of competing payment services, you’ve got to wonder what PayPal has in store.  As the current leader in P2P and longer tail transactions, they don’t have a scalable solution for real world commerce.  PayPal is stuck in the matrix if you will.  Bling Nation has enabled tests with NFC tags, but that’s really a bridge to integrated NFC and if the dominant players are unlikely to allow access to the secure elements within their systems (where payment and security live).

The ISIS consortium has yet to announce a handset partner, only that Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile will all work together with Discover and Barclay’s.   If the Google and Apple plans come forward as expected there will clearly be room for multiple payment options as both have devices on multiple carriers.  I did a quick search this morning and found a piece recently posted on Fast Company claiming instead of NFC PayPal will instead focus on QR via their RedLaser application …

EBay’s solution is the humble QR code: a cheap and common successor to the barcode of yore. Late last year the auction giant acquired RedLaser, an iPhone and Android app that lets smartphones scan QR and UPC codes on retail goods to compare prices at brick-and-mortar and online retailers.

Rob Veres, eBay’s General Manager of Redlaser, says that the company’s recent QR pilot program with Atlantic Records has already proven that QR codes can create leads and drive sales, but he believes what small businesses really want is rewards programs that work as well as major retailers’. “The big guys already have their loyalty plans, but smaller businesses don’t,” says Veres.

EBay plans to change all that by taking a loose approach to geo-targeted discounts. Instead of requiring people to physically show up and “check in” to get deals, as on Foursquare, Veres says merchants can instead stick QR coupons in advertisements around town. Once captured by a user, that QR code can instruct the user’s phone to show information about the shop or product, search for price comparisons or ratings, or even initiate a purchase over the phone’s data connection. [Fast Company]

QR is again a bridge … and while there’s been considerable adoption, device integration and ease of use has not fully reached mass adoption.  RedLaser is nearing 9 million users though so they are making some decent ground.  Until there’s mobile web purchase for retail (particularly smb) this is not going to go too far.  All of these plans lead to a wallet-like solution and you’ll want the full benefits not just a random purchase here or there.

So back to Nokia … I wonder if Nokia might end up being PayPal’s answer to the real world.  While Nokia has effectively stalled in this market they are still the world leader in market share and have suggested all future devices will include NFC.  They don’t have any public payment partners yet … Another option could be BlackBerry which has also said they will include NFC in future devices … again no payment partner here.

PayPal has evolved quickly, though they have stayed within the online realm.  Bump accommodates some limited real-world p2p, but nothing close to real commerce – at least not yet.  They’d better hurry as Visa is working back towards P2P with their own solution …

It’s time for socially linked purchase accounts

Apples new approach to social is welcome but also shows just how lightly the social impact was thought to have in the broader ecosystem of iTunes.

In our home, my wife and I share an iTunes account so that our purchases can be easily distributed between systems.  Both of us have an @mac address though mine is the primary for purchases.  With the launch of Ping, the social stream presents itself within the Apple framework, yet is locked to a single user view.  In our personal world, it is impossible for both my wife and I to take advantage of the system without sharing a profile.  With Apple’s current focus on purchase forward activity, this might make some sense for how your actions represent you, but this is ridiculous if you participate within the social system.  We don’t share a facebook account and have different friends, Ping should respect that we well.

Prior to Ping, these issues existed around recommendations and in fairness, are not unique to Apple. We also share an Amazon account primarily for Prime, but also now as we both utilize the Kindle service making it easy to share books.  I’m used to seeing purchase recommendations for things my wife has bought on Amazon and while we don’t read the same things, I can file that info away for potential future gifting opportunities.  I’m certain that the Prime sharing is not unique nor is the sharing of purchase accounts … courtesy of DRM.

In today’s highly social world, we need a way to uniquely identify ourselves, yet also a way to properly (legally) purchase together as a household.  We have three children and already one with an iPod, yet at almost 7yrs old she’s not making purchases herself just yet.  As my kids get older, they’ll want to connect with their own friends and see recommendations based on their tastes – not those of their parents.  Thus far, there is no way to do that without creating individual purchase accounts, which means we can’t easily share the content between ourselves – which of course has always been possible with physical media.

If there was a method to link our accounts to a master purchase record, we should be able to purchase and share uniquely, yet maintain a single household record for DRM.  This would be ideal and frankly doesn’t even seem that hard to do.  I’m sure people would cheat something like this much in the same way people break DRM.  There’s no stopping the hacker types, but for those of us just looking for an easy and fair way to utilize the content we are legally purchasing … there’s got to be a better way.

Is Blaze Mobile BS?

I signed up for Blaze Mobile over the summer and while I have received a number of emails from the company touting how wonderful they are, I have yet to receive my NFC sticker – the core product they offer.

When I questioned this I received the following:

We are sorry for the inconvenience. Unfortunately, our bank requires us to mail the stickers with a plastic prepaid card which are on back-order. As soon as they are in, we will mail both to you.

In the meantime, you can use 90% of the Blaze Wallet without the sticker including the following just to name a few:

  • You can get your account balance and receipts from over 8,000 financial institutions
  • You can load your reward cards for hotels, airlines, rental cards and get your point balances
  • You can purchase movie tickets
  • You can search for restaurants and other points of interest and get turn-by-turn directions
  • You can create expense reports (iPhone version only)

Last I checked, there’s nothing unique or beneficial about doing any of this stuff with Blaze.  I would not even consider Blaze the source for any of this activity … The only semi-interesting bit is the expense report though it’s highly unlikely that it would work with our corporate system and most importantly what would I be expensing without a way to pay??

I get that NFC payments are still largely considered new and mainly in tests outside of a few cases like retail and transit cases  – at least in NYC.  What I don’t like though is how a product is openly marketed as real and prevalent with little to no “customer” communication about where things really stand.  When I signed up there was no mention of a backlog on pre-paid cards … and come on really?  Is it that hard for whatever bank is backing this to issue a card?