A couple of days ago, Mobile Payments Today ran an article titled
"Vodafone to launch biggest mobile wallet next year" (isn't "the" missing before "biggest" there?..) Welcome to the "mine is bigger than yours" playground.
Whilst the user base of 400m subscribers is impressive, it's not unique - Apple, Amazon and Google have even larger number of customers. PayPal's "wallet" is available to 1bn smartphone users. The question is not about size (although it does matter here),
it's about adoption and active users.
Just because Vodafone can offer or push an app to its user base (I am not sure they - unlike Apple or Google - can do that globally, due to regulatory issues related to MNOs), that doesn't mean that all Vodafone subscribers will start using it and, more
importantly, the issuers will jump on board. Google was offering its wallet platform to issuers for quite some time, yet there were few takers.
Mobile wallet's primary function is payment-related. When it comes to mobiles, the main payment interface is NFC. Will Vodafone control NFC interface on Android phones? Or will it share that control/access with Google? If the latter, how is Vodafone's wallet
different from Google's one (apart from Google Wallet being MNO- and issuer-agnostic)?..
If Vodafone offers its wallet as the authentication platform (which would be a smart move), the question boils down to (a) commercial model and (b) other alternatives available to service providers. If you were a service provider who required a mobile secure
element platform for authentication, would you partner with an MNO (Vodafone is not present in every country in the world, after all) or an MNO-agnostic TSM?
G+D recently announced their own m-wallet platform which can access in-phone secure element (SIM or microSD). I doubt it
- still awaiting confirmation from G&D - they can access SIM without MNO's consent; however, if that is the case, Vodafone has a strong competitor.
In any case, the future of mobile payments could be not about mobile phones (it is already not just about banks)... More on this later.