Google has officially signed a partnership with Softcard, the mobile payments solution backed by major US wireless carriers. The deal, first reported by Recode, comes amid rumors that Google plans to revive Google Wallet in a big way to better compete against Apple Pay.
And that's exactly what's happening. Beginning "later this year," Google Wallet — complete with its tap-and-pay functionality — will come pre-installed on Android smartphones sold by Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Google has also purchased "some exciting technology and intellectual property from Softcard to make Google Wallet better." Google Wallet will ship on Android phones running version 4.4 (KitKat) and above.
Google Wallet is the new Softcard
Softcard, originally branded as Isis, was announced in 2010 as a joint venture between US carriers Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. But the NFC-based payment solution never really caught on with consumers. Softcard was hampered by a clunky setup process, lousy user experience, and limited credit card support — problems that were more troublesome than its unfortunate, original name. Putting that technology behind Google's software could make for a far better approach. Just last week, Samsung announced its own acquisition of LoopPay, securing its own path to help customers make purchases with a smartphone.
The trend is clear: Apple's competitors are seeing the adoption that Apple Pay has already amassed and are working fast to build new alternatives — or combine existing ones to create a better, more viable product. That's precisely what's occurring here between Google and US carriers, several of whom were hesitant to get behind Google's mobile wallet a few years ago. But Softcard's been a flop with consumers, so it seems everyone has realized there needs to be a plan B. We've just entered a whole new phase of the mobile payments war.
Softcard says, "For now, Softcard customers can continue to tap and pay with the app." The company will share more details on the transition to Google Wallet "in the coming weeks." So that's the TL;DR of it: Softcard as we've known it is dying, and Google Wallet is picking up the pieces to make a serious run at Apple Pay.