Samsung's (OTC:SSNLF) latest smartphones, the Galaxy Note 5 and its curvy counterpart the Galaxy S6 Edge+, are the finest it has ever built. They're speedy, good-looking, and packed with innovative features. One of those features is Samsung Pay, a mobile payment solution that's objectively superior to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) competing service, Apple Pay.
Unfortunately, Verizon (NYSE:VZ) subscribers may never be able to use it.
Verizon rivals Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T have all agreed to support Samsung's service, but Verizon has not. That may change in the future, but at least for now, Galaxy Note 5 owners that purchase their handset through Verizon could miss out on one the phone's best features. It's unfortunate for consumers, and it highlights the issues that continue to plague the Android ecosystem.
This isn't the first time
Samsung's Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 Edge+, Galaxy S6, and Galaxy S6 Edge will all (eventually) support Samsung Pay. Like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay allows owners of compatible phones to use their handset as a credit card alternative. Simply touching their phone against a credit card terminal completes the payment process in a safer and more convenient fashion than swiping a plastic card. But Apple Pay requires the use of an NFC-equipped terminal. While some merchants have them, most don't, and likely won't for several years. Samsung Pay, in contrast, can work with almost any credit card terminal, NFC or not.
Unfortunately, that won't really matter for Verizon subscribers. Verizon says it's still evaluating Samsung Pay, and it hasn't signed off on the service just yet. Unless Big Red changes its tune quickly, owners of Samsung's handsets probably won't be able to use Samsung Pay when it launches in the U.S. late next month.
Of course, this isn't the first time Verizon has blocked such a service. In 2011, Google launched Google Wallet, an NFC-based mobile payment solution. Verizon, however, prevented its subscribers from using it, instead favoring Softcard -- a similar service it notably had a stake in. Earlier this year, Google struck a deal to acquire Softcard, and Verizon relented, agreeing to promote Google Wallet on the Android handsets it sold.
It could hurt Samsung and Verizon
Verizon's unwillingness to support Samsung Pay could weigh on both companies. Like Apple Pay, Google Wallet depends on NFC terminals to function, and is therefore inferior to Samsung's service. Subscribers (or potential subscribers) who wish to make use of Samsung Pay could defect to rival networks. At the same time, Samsung's phones lose one of their more compelling, unique features. Almost every Android handset can make use of Google Wallet -- Samsung Pay is exclusive to the Korean tech giant's latest phones.
Verizon could ultimately relent, but even if it does, the situation serves as compelling evidence of a problem that continues to face Android vendors. Apple Pay has run into issues with retailers, but never carriers. Unlike Samsung, Apple maintains strict control over the iPhone, and the software it runs. Samsung's Galaxies, in contrast, are often modified (sometimes heavily) by its carrier partners. That may benefit the carriers, but it results in a user experience that's inconsistent and often sub-par.
Verizon's decision to block Samsung Pay is perhaps the most egregious example yet.