Get ready for the “Wallet Wars.” In the U.S., no less than every major player who has ever run a credit card transaction seems to be coming up with its own form of mobile payment solution, so much so that Time and others have likened the scene to the Wild West. To wit: Google has its Wallet; Starbucks has teamed with Square; telecoms including AT&T and Verizon Wireless are working on Isis (rumored to begin trials later this month); a consortium of retailers (Target, Walmart, 7-Eleven and Best Buy among them) have come together to create the Merchant Customer Exchange; and other online influentials including PayPal, Groupon and possibly Amazon—not to mention countless startups—are developing their own mobile payment and merchant systems. Meanwhile, banks and credit card companies are working on programs of their own: Visa is rolling out V.me, for example (in the U.S., it’s now available to PNC Bank’s Virtual Wallet customers). Yet to weigh in is Apple, which now has a wallet-ready platform in Passbook.
Problem is, consumers still aren’t sold on the idea of mobile payments. (As Mike Love, chief technology officer at Mozido, recently pointed out, “People can use cards pretty effectively, so why would they adopt a mobile wallet?”). Some are betting that micropayments will help get consumers hooked on the concept. Google recently adopted micropayments as a selling platform, and a recent survey of convenience store users suggested 71 percent of them would be open to paying by mobile. But it could well take five to eight years before we see significant adoption of the mobile wallet in the U.S., about the same amount of time it took to catch on in Japan. The Wallet War contenders are in for a long fight.