Samsung Pay just launched in beta facing a lot of questions

Samsung Pay beta launched in the US yesterday
Samsung Pay beta launched in the US yesterday
Image: REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
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Mobile wallets are poised to go mainstream in the US, but widespread adoption is likely to have some bumps along the way.

On Thursday (August 27), Samsung launched the beta version of its mobile wallet, Samsung Pay. And though it’s small for now—the beta is invite only and you need to own one of Samsung’s newest devices and have a Bank of America or US Bank card—it highlights some of the issues facing mobile wallets, especially on the Android operating system.

For one, there’s the role of wireless carriers. Verizon, the biggest carrier in the US, has said that it’s still “evaluating” Samsung Pay, and will not support the wallet right away. It might not even support Samsung Pay in time for its official rollout on September 28.

Verizon is in the process of evaluating Samsung Pay and we’ll keep our customers updated on any news regarding the service.

— Verizon News (@VerizonNews) August 21, 2015

It’s not exactly clear what Verizon is evaluating, but this isn’t the first time it’s caused issues for a mobile wallet. In 2011, Verizon restricted Google Wallet from Galaxy Nexus devices. At the time, Verizon was heavily involved in its own mobile-wallet competitor, Softcard, with AT&T and T-Mobile. That company was shut down and sold for parts to Google earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Google announced in May that it was launching Android Pay, a revamp of Google Wallet. When it’s finally released, new Samsung phones—which run on Android—will have both mobile wallets preinstalled, possibly creating some confusion among users. 

Apple Pay didn’t have these problems when it launched last September. Carriers had to accept Apple’s mobile wallet no matter what. And because iOS is a tightly controlled operating system, Apple has final say over the apps available to its users, so it can block any competitors.

What’s clear is that mobile-wallet technology will be widely available soon. Samsung and Apple produce the majority of smartphones purchased in the US, so over time, most of the smartphones in the US will be equipped with mobile-payment technology. But it’s going to take some time to sort out the winners and losers.