Barclaycard to Fold Quick Tap, Making Room for Wearables
By Kate Fitzgerald, Emerging Payments Editor
Quick Tap, the U.K.’s first NFC-based mobile payment app, will go down as a casualty of the speed of change in mobile payments technology when it folds next month, and it likely won’t be the last. Analysts forecast major changes and reshufflings among existing mobile payments ventures in the coming year, not least because of the far-reaching implications of Apple Inc.’s NFC-based Apple Pay service rolling out next month.
Barclaycard launched Quick Tap with mobile network operator Orange UK in May 2011, and though it achieved some success, it failed to gain widespread popularity, observers say. But Barclaycard has few regrets, underscoring its willingness to experiment to advance its mobile payments agenda, which includes entering the hot new niche of payments-enabled wearable devices.
“When we launched Quick Tap three years ago, it was ahead of its game, but payments is a fast-moving business requiring constant innovation to stay ahead, and we want to use our resources to focus on developing solutions that better meet our customers’ needs,” a Barclaycard spokesperson tells Paybefore. Quick Tap initially enabled users to link their Barclaycard payments cards to NFC-equipped handsets to compete purchases up to £15 (US$24). The company this month notified users the service ends Oct. 31.
For Barclaycard, Quick Tap was a valuable first-generation experiment with mobile contactless payments, according to Zilvinas Bareisis, a senior analyst with Celent. The lessons learned about the technology and consumer demand for mobile payments are driving its latest initiatives, he suggests.
Barclaycard now is emphasizing NFC payments cards, stickers and wearables to promote mobile and contactless payments. All new Barclaycard credit cards are issued in the contactless format, and any customers may request a Barclaycard’s PayTag contactless sticker, which users typically attach to their mobile handsets to complete purchases at the POS, the company said.
Barclaycard also is in the midst of a limited rollout of its new bPay band, a contactless wristband enabling users to pay by linking any Visa or MasterCard credit or debit card to the wearable device, regardless of bank affiliation. The bPay band supports contactless payments up to £20 (US$32) at any of the U.K.’s 300,000 contactless-ready merchant terminals. Barclaycard plans to market bPay band to the public early next year, according to the spokesperson.
The emergence this year of new mobile payments technology, including host card emulation (HCE), likely was a factor in Quick Tap’s demise, Bareisis believes. With HCE, banks can offer mobile payments without involving a specific telco network operator or handset manufacturer. “New developments affecting how telco operators view mobile payments meant that it was only a matter of time until Barclaycard reconsidered its options,” Bareisis says.
Orange’s parent, EE, is forging ahead in mobile payments with its own product, 2014 Paybefore Awards Europe winner Cash on Tap, the contactless mobile payment service the carrier introduced last year with MasterCard. Cash on Tap may better serve EE’s purposes, Bareisis indicates. “We predicted partnerships [between telcos and payments networks] would enable the mobile network operators to go it alone without banks to launch NFC-based ‘digital cash’ solutions based on prepaid accounts, and that’s exactly what’s happened,” he explains.
EE also is involved in Weve, the U.K. mobile network operators’ joint venture, along with Telefónica UK (O2) and Vodaphone UK. Weve’s next move is unclear, after the recent departure of its CEO, payments industry veteran David Sear. Sear, who joined Weve in June 2013, was named chief commercial officer at Skrill Group last month. Weve appointed Tim Hipperson, an advertising and media executive, as Weve’s interim CEO. Weve, which operates a thriving mobile advertising business, previously signaled plans to move forward with its mobile payments service in 2015, but has provided no updates in months.
Barclaycard loses little in shutting down Quick Tap, notes David Parker, founder and CEO of Polymath Consulting. “Quick Tap’s technology has moved on,” he concludes.
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