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Softcard is shutting down on March 31st, and Google Wallet will replace it

Softcard is shutting down on March 31st, and Google Wallet will replace it

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The carrier-backed Softcard mobile wallet system will be killed off permanently on March 31st, the company has announced. Confirmation of Softcard's demise follows major news last month, when Google announced a deal with three of the four major US carriers that will result in Google Wallet being preloaded onto future Android smartphones. That agreement also saw Mountain View purchase some of Softcard's technology, which presumably will be intertwined with Google's own tap-to-pay capabilities. All existing Softcard user accounts will be closed on March 31st, according to an email being sent out to customers.

Somewhere in Mountain View, champagne is flowing

Softcard, originally known as Isis, was a mobile payments system and a rare joint venture between Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Like Apple Pay, it used contactless NFC technology to help consumers make purchases with a smartphone. But unlike Apple's solution — which launched nearly a year after Softcard — the setup and payment processes were cumbersome and frustrating. Using Softcard required a special SIM card for your phone, and since credit card support was limited, most people had to funnel money into a prepaid American Express account to use it. (As recently as a few weeks ago, I'd get emails about my Softcard account being temporarily suspended if I didn't pay my Verizon bill on time.)

Softcard March 31

A statement on Softcard's shutdown posted at the company's website.

In a bizarre twist of fate, the carriers have now turned to Google to "power the next generation of mobile payments" after their own product proved a total dud with consumers. Before Softcard's rollout, Google had long tried to expand Google Wallet's reach on Android, but its attempts were often thwarted by large US carriers — especially Verizon. That bickering and the Softcard debacle gave Apple the opening it needed to come in and make its presence felt in the mobile payments race. Softcard's death has quickly put Google in a better position than ever before; soon, the service will be difficult to get away from on Android. Then again, Samsung is making its own big play and would have you believe it's got a better answer than either Google or Apple. Things are about to get interesting.