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Samsung announced its new Samsung Wallet app at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) event in Barcelona, Spain on February 27. From March 7, the API has been made available to selected partners. Other developers are being invited to apply for access on Samsung’s developer website.
Samsung says that the full launch of the API is slated for May 2013.
Wallet is a direct response to Apple’s Passbook app and the similarities between the two are striking to say the least.
Apple has previously been in battle with Samsung over patent infringement, in one case citing Samsung’s use of Apple-like rounded square icons for their apps. Even a quick look at the icon for Samsung’s wallet app shows it to be almost identical, with fanned ticket stubs sticking out of a container.
The similarities go much deeper though. The wallet app is described by Samsung as being a repository for storing and managing event tickets, boarding passes, memberships cards and coupons. Sound familiar? How about the use of time and location services to push notifications updates and offers to you phone? Samsung also announced Major League Baseball as a development partner and that organisation was a launch partner for Apple’s Passbook app.
Interestingly, Samsung Wallet doesn’t support near-field communications (NFC) features, required for’tap and pay’ payment functionality at checkouts. Samsung says that retailers are reluctant to invest in new infrastructure to support the technology and prefer to use bar codes instead. Apple’s passbook does’t use NFC either and it remains to be seen how the absence of these big two smartphone producers will effect the uptake of the technology. Like Apple’s Passbook, Samsung Wallet will only be available on the company’s own devices.
Perhaps imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and if so, Apple should be blushing at Samsung’s adulation. Online tech magazines and blogs are using phrases like ‘slavishly copied’ ‘aping’ and ‘blatantly copies’ to describe Samsung’s Wallet compared to Apple’s Passbook. Forbes magazine simply calls it a ‘clone’.
Apple tends not to take these things lying down and may decide to take action at some point but the broader story is more positive.
With additional offerings in this space from Google and Microsoft, the age of the mobile electronic wallet/passbook/whatever is very definitely here.
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