Mobile wallets: Really ready for take-off?

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2015 was the year of the mobile wallet. But despite the fast take-up, the payment method didn’t quite take off. However, the conditions are right for mobile wallets to really take flight this year.

Mobile payments are set to expand fast over the next 12 months with Samsung in the vanguard, especially in the US where it’s market leader, and in China where it will debut next year.

Now I know a lot of people think “Apple” when you talk about mobile payments. That’s just one consequence of Apple’s image as an innovator and it has meant Apple Pay’s rollout in 2015 got A LOT of attention.

But it would be wrong to ignore other players because, a bit like the rise of Android phones compared to the iPhone, they’re often the ones making the tech truly universal rather than just cool.

So, back with Samsung. The Korean tech giant is going to expand its Samsung Pay ‘mobile wallet’ to its lower-priced phones within the next year, according to a Reuters interview with Thomas Ko, global co-general manager of Samsung Pay.

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The service debuted in 2015 in South Korea and the US via the company’s newer high-end phones only. But with Samsung offering a huge number of phones across the price range and it being the global smartphone leader, Samsung Pay’s extension to more (and more affordable) phone models will be key in helping to democratise mobile payments.

Samsung will also be helped by the fact that it uses technology already widely used by stores, rather than requiring special equipment like Apple Pay and Android Pay.

Will the expansion mean the US becomes more mobile wallet-friendly? That’s hard to call. So far, it’s one country that has been relatively slow to adopt new payment technology. Not only that, it’s not as if swiping a smartphone to pay is really any easier than swiping a credit/debit card.

But… the situation is changing. And with Samsung already the mobile wallet market leader in the US and planning to add an online payments service (thus competing with current king PayPal), it’s determined to make America sit up and take notice.

The US may not be anywhere near the stage of Sweden, where consumers are increasingly walking around with no cash at all because digital payments are so easy. But, it’s on its way and this new development is one more blow against cash.

This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday