If that sounds familiar, it’s because Apple already provides this kind of service, called Passbook, on the iPhone. Samsung’s version is eerily similar – there’s even a stack of multicoloured tickets on the icon – and behaves in the same way. Users will be able to call up their passes at any time, and they’ll also get time- and location-based push notifications for certain items. For instance, users can get reminders to pull out their digital boarding passes when they get to the airport.
As with Passbook, developers will have to build Samsung Wallet functionality into their apps, and Samsung is listing Walgreens, Belly, Major League Baseball Advanced Media, Expedia, Booking.com, Hotels.com and Lufthansa as launch partners. Samsung hasn’t actually launched the service yet, but is offering tools for developers who want to get on board.
Google gets left behind
Assuming lots of developers participate, Samsung’s efforts should be appreciated by the millions of people who own Galaxy phones. The downside is that Samsung Wallet will only create more fragmentation headaches for Android as a whole. According to The Verge, Samsung Wallet won’t support near-field communications (NFC) features, despite a recent partnership between Samsung and Visa for tap-to-pay features in future smartphones. Samsung said retailers prefer to scan bar codes instead, because it doesn’t require any new infrastructure.
Google has previously said that it wants to wants to offer a Passbook-like service as part of Google Wallet, but so far the company hasn’t delivered. And while Google Now can bring up boarding passes based on location, the service isn’t currently plugged into discount cards, event tickets or coupons.
It’s hard to blame Samsung for pursuing its own wallet solution, especially since Android doesn’t have one built in. Unfortunately, a Samsung-specific Wallet also creates more conflict for developers, and potentially more confusion for users, who may someday be dealing with dueling wallets.
Jared Newman (@onejarednewman). TechHive