Commentary

Amazon Axes Mobile Wallet

Mobile wallet apps seem to be popping up everywhere -- but there is also some attrition thinning the herd, and Wednesday saw one of the biggest contenders go belly-up. That’s when Amazon announced that it’s shutting down the Amazon Wallet beta a mere six months after the product launched.

The online retail giant is removing the app from the app stores, and there are no immediate plans for a replacement, so to all appearances Amazon Wallet is well and truly dead -- although users can still access gift and loyalty cards stored on the app.

A statement from Amazon spokesman Tom Cook would seem to confirm this: “We have learned a great deal from the introduction of the Wallet and will look for ways to apply these lessons in the future as we continue to innovate on behalf of our customers.”

As far as I can tell, in Silicon-Valley-speak, any time someone “learned a great deal,” it means they learned that something doesn’t work.

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One of Amazon Wallet’s problems may have been that it didn’t allow users to use credit or debit cards for payments at the point of sale, since it was for gift and loyalty cards and online transactions only. It’s not clear why Amazon never enabled credit and debit card payments, considering that Amazon customers have already registered millions of these on their online accounts, but I’m guessing payment security issues had a lot to do with it.

Still, other mobile wallet systems that do allow point-of-sale payments, including Apple Pay and Google Wallet, are also having a hard time getting traction. Last year The Guardian reported that the Google Wallet app had probably been downloaded less than 20 million times after two years on offer, while Apple seems to be making more headway signing up bank and retail partners than new users.

Mobile payments’ slow start can probably be attributed, in turn, to retailers’ low adoption of NFC technology. As of September 2014, just 220,000 U.S. retailers had installed NFC systems, equal to less than 6% of approximately 3.8 million retail establishments nationwide.

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