Mobile Payments Picking Up Steam with Groupon, Square and Apple's Passbook

Today iOS 6 became available for download by the public. Among the many features of the OS upgrade, Apple Maps is getting the most attention. But perhaps more interesting is Passbook, Apple's mobile wallet. Passbook isn't a full-blown mobile payments vehicle like Google Wallet or even PayPal but it could have an immediate and profound impact on "mobile payments" and mobile loyalty programs.

As I discuss in my post on Screenwerk, Passbook could soon become the most important mobile loyalty channel for enterprises and SMBs alike. Passbook will allow users to store and retrieve tickets, boarding passes, loyalty cards, gift cards and stored payment cards. It won’t allow users to upload a general credit card (like Google Wallet) or tap into their iTunes account credit cards for mobile payments. But that’s probably coming.

Also launching today is a third party platform and API from Tello called PassTools. That's going to make it much easier for brands, enterprises and small businesses to quickly start creating "passes" and coupons and otherwise utilizing Passbook, which will have an installed base of millions very soon. I discuss the features and implications of PassTools over at Screenwerk

Passbook may help train millions of people to use mobile wallets, something no one else has so far been able to do. 

Also this week Square announced a $200 million "series D" funding round at a more than $3 billion valuation. The company is on track to do more than $8 billion in transactions (gross) this year. 

Finally, this morning Groupon opened up its new Square-like SMB-focused payments tools, Groupon Payments, to the entire US market. Groupon will first go after its own daily deals merchants and then try to expand its merchant customers by undercutting Square and others with lower fees. Here's what Groupon is charging to process transactions (with a Square-like card reader or keyed in): 

Activity surrounding the various flavors of mobile payments in the US is intensifying. These three developments in the space of essentially two days reflects that. 

While consumers remain skeptical or ignorant or indifferent -- 71 percent in our recent survey said they're not interested in mobile payments -- the growing visibility of mobile wallets and mobile payment options (especially Passbook) will likely change all that. 

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