As traditional cash and credit cards go out of style, phone-makers have been jockeying to take their place. But stepping in to fill their shoes is no easy feat. That struggle snapped into greater focus this week.
On the heels of Google Pay’s debut, Loup Ventures revealed Thursday that top competitor Apple Pay only gained traction with 16 percent of the iPhone user base. The surprising revelation came amid otherwise positive signs showing notable growth. Apple Pay weighed in with year-over-year increases — with active users for Apple Pay more than doubling, transactions more than tripling and online adoption by merchants expanding by roughly 50 percent. Still, by Loup’s calculus, a whopping 84 percent of Apple’s user base bypassed its primary payments solution.
The numbers paint a bracing picture of the mobile payments war, considering that, among the smartphone companies, the iOS-maker holds the top spot. According to Juniper Research, 86 million people used Apple Pay last year. Samsung Pay followed, with 34 million, and Google only managed to attract 24 million users to Android Pay.
The latter just got a makeover. Google described plans to unite its Android Pay and Google Wallet services under a single banner last January. Now the tech giant has begun rolling it out.
“We’re currently working on bringing Google Pay to all Google products, so whether you’re shopping on Chrome or with your Assistant, you’ll have a consistent checkout experience using the cards saved to your Google Account,” the company wrote on its blog.
Eventually the new service will act as a re-branded mash-up of Google’s various payments efforts across physical retail transactions, online purchases and person-to-person payments. Users can download the update to the Android Pay app, essentially transforming it into Google Pay, complete with a redesigned look and a few new features.
Just as before, users can pay for in-store purchases with their phones and smartwatches or use their accounts to buy online goods. But they also get a new app homescreen that displays a personalized list of nearby shops that accept Google Pay, shows recent purchases and houses loyalty card accounts. The service also supports PayPal transactions and Visa Checkout.
Later on, Google Pay will also absorb Google Wallet’s peer-to-peer features, so people in the U.S. and the U.K. can send money or request funds from friends. Until then, Google Wallet will remain a separate app, but under the new moniker Google Pay Send.
Google will need to appeal to both consumers and retailers. Despite lacking user traction, Apple Pay was accepted by 36 percent of U.S. merchants last year, said Boston Retail Partners. The appeal of the iPhone’s vast user base likely drove that interest. Samsung Pay’s proposition, which doesn’t require retailers to buy and install new equipment, offers intrinsic appeal. Google Pay will need to come from behind to become a contender.
To help the cause, the app launches with a lineup of recognizable partners, including e-commerce sites and apps such as Airbnb, Dice, Fandango, Instacart and others.