Google Wallet is partnering with Softcard, the carrier-backed NFC payment system that has long hindered Google Wallet. Softcard was first introduced several years ago as Isis, an NFC mobile payment system that was supported by AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, all three of which blocked Google Wallet on their devices and allowed only phones with Isis-capable SIMs to use Isis for NFC payments.
Fast forward to 2015 and the company has rebranded itself to Softcard and spread its technology to various retailers, restaurants and more. Even with that spread, Softcard has failed to gain traction with customers, largely due to its incompatibility and inconsistency. Google Wallet, on the other hand, has worked hard to make NFC payments an incredibly easy experience, but has struggled to expand due to three of the largest carriers blocking the service.
The two are now partnering together to have Google Wallet pre-installed on every phone running KitKat or higher from Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile (Google Wallet has already come pre-installed on Sprint devices). In addition, Google will acquire technology and intellectual properties from Softcard to improve the Wallet service.
An interesting note: Google’s statement said that the companies would be working in partnership, yet Softcard issued its own statement saying that Google was acquiring the company. It could be that Google is actually purchasing Softcard, not simply working as partners.
The move is one that will likely be beneficial to customers, allowing them to use better technology in more places. NFC payments have yet to match the compatibility of competitors like LoopPay, yet they seem to be making a larger mainstream move with Google Wallet and Apple Pay now coming toe-to-toe. It’s going to be an interesting show to see how this all plays out.