Just like the old saying goes, "A rising tide lifts all mobile payment services."
It's possible that I'm remembering that adage incorrectly, but that's exactly what's happening with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) Pay and Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL)(NASDAQ:GOOG) Wallet, according to a recent report from Ars Technica. The report suggests that, during the past couple of months following the introduction of Apple Pay, Google Wallet has seen usage skyrocket, with transaction volumes jumping 50%. Meanwhile, the search giant's payment service is seeing new users doubling sequentially compared to previous months.
Apple Pay is the rising tide
Few companies carry the weight that Apple does with catalyzing technological adoption. In this case, we're talking about near-field communications, or NFC, which has been around for many years, including several where it was heralded as the next big thing in mobile payments. However, that didn't play out as most investors expected -- until now.
Considering the sheer size of Apple's loyal user base, it's hard for any technology to catch on without iSupport. With that in mind, it's useful to consider how Apple chooses which technologies (more context here) to support. With Apple now firmly on the NFC bandwagon, the technology finally has a legitimate shot at mainstream adoption.
That could lift Google Wallet
Google Wallet has been widely considered a failure, both financially and strategically. But as Apple catalyzes NFC-based mobile payments, particularly as it competes with QR code-based alternatives like CurrentC, Google could stand to benefit as merchants increasingly opt to upgrade their payment infrastructure to support NFC.
Somewhat ironically, Google has been trying to diversify Wallet away from NFC for some time, in part due to the hardware fragmentation within the platform. Not all Android phones have NFC, and Google wants to include those that don't. A year ago, Google added features to enable peer-to-peer fund transfers -- which entails regulatory requirements -- and allowed loyalty cards to be stored. Just last week, Google added recurring bank transfers and low balance alerts so that users can always make sure they have funds available.
From a consumer perspective, Google Wallet and Apple Pay offer very similar in-store experiences. Google Wallet requires a PIN, while Apple Pay uses Touch ID, but both still primarily use NFC. While the two competing services differ dramatically behind the scenes in many ways, the in-store experience is more important to consumer adoption.
To the extent that Apple Pay raises awareness of mobile payments services, Google may finally see some success with Wallet.