The Future Of Payments May Not Be Apple Or Android Pay
With somewhere around 85m users globally it would be easy to assume that Apple Pay has defined the future of payments, in store or online. Add in the anticipated 45m users who have adopted either Android Pay or Samsung Pay an you might think that NFC based tokenisation is the future for all payments.
That's a long way from being the truth.
In fact if you look at active users it may be two Chinese companies which are defining the future of payments – and there's no hint of Visa or Mastercard in either service.
With 450m users as of the end of 2016, Alibaba's code pay system Alipay is the biggest smartphone payment system world wide, based on usage in China alone. In a landmark deal at the end of last year Alipay arrived in Australia and it's likely that other countries with large Chinese migrant populations or significant numbers of Chinese tourist and student visitors will follow suit.
WeChatPay is Tencent's response to Alipay. Running on the WeChat platform, which is China's actual default mobile platform with close to one billion users, Tencent has built a peer to peer payment system which promises to further change the financial world and is already expanding into local ecommerce and retail payments.
With Chinese tourist numbers rocketing it's a good bet that both AliPay and WeChatPay will be coming to a payment terminal near you sometime soon. And if Alibaba and Tencent can cut the banks, Visa and Mastercard out of the payment loop you can guarantee Apple, Google and Samsung will be looking to do the same.
There's one other player to be considered here though: Amazon. It's the closest thing the West has to AliBaba and, in the US at least, has the scale and data to pull exactly this kind of thing off. It may not want to get into banking, but the financial benefits of doing away with credit card fees should be enough of a driver for it to look at ways of becoming a de facto banking service for its customers.