Following a tentative start with Google first launching its mobile wallet offering last year and then O2 in recent months, the war of the mobile wallets has finally begun in earnest. Last week Microsoft announced the development of its new wallet for Windows
Phone, which will allow customers to not only pay through NFC technology, but also store their coupons, credit cards, and loyalty cards all in one handy place. The news comes hot off the heels of Apple, who has recently sparked industry speculation that the
iPhone 5 will have some wallet capabilities in the form of the recently announced iOS6 Passbook app.
Significantly each of these offerings have slightly different capabilities, with both Microsoft and Apple choosing to integrate additional customer rewards into their technology, rather than pure payments. This raises the question of exactly what customers
want from their wallet – is it a payments capability or a much more diverse solution that is enough to rival the modern consumer’s real-life purse?
O2 has provided a great example of how the payments wallet can be used to meet genuine customer need, showcasing the potential of the O2 Wallet app in the tiny village of Rhiwbina in South Wales. Surprisingly in this day and age but not uncommon, the 11,000
residents of Rhiwbina don’t have access to a single cash machine. This makes it crucial for inhabitants to be organised with their money in order to avoid running out of cash. In this instance the mobile wallet has proven to be incredibly useful, solving day-to-day
problems such as paying a neighbour back for some shopping or dividing a round of drinks between a large group of friends.
Of course, most towns and even villages in the UK have far more convenient access to cash than Rhiwbina, forcing banks and mobile operators to consider how mobile payments can meet the needs of these very diverse customer groups. The fact is that in order
to make mobile wallets truly worthwhile, British consumers will have to see a far greater incentive than just a convenient way to pay, especially as mobile banking apps and faster payments make money transfers easier than ever before. O2 has already built
mobile shopping and related discounts into the O2 Wallet, with Apple displaying an innovative approach to convenience by allowing users to store airline boarding passes and cinema tickets in its Passbook app. It is clear that the mobile payments battleground
is heating up, but as each market player introduces its own innovative offering, the winners will be those who combine pioneering ways to pay that meet genuine customer needs with value-added services that change the way in which consumers manage their money.