Google Wallet was supposed to be revolutionary payments service that everyone was waiting for. All you needed was your phone and you could pay for stuff at stores, ride the subway, visit the library, get discounts at restaurants and so on.
Obviously, not much of that has happened and likely never will, for Wallet at least. Yet, something that will fulfill those needs will come along.
Apple is throwing its hat in the ring with a new feature in iOS 6, Passbook
. It's starting out small, it says the feature is simply an app to store all of your passes, cards, coupons and so on, in one place. That's fairly inoffensive, at first glance, and there's certainly a need for an app like that.
Apple has the size and the clout to make it work, having it built into iPhones means that any app will be able to leverage it and that's the intent. If it works and if people get on board, those are a couple of really big ifs, the app could prove very interesting.
However, what's there right now is not even half the story. The real money (quite literally) is in payments, storing your coupons is great, the ability to pay for your meals is a lot better.
Moreover, Apple is a in a very good position to do it, probably the best right now. There are several reasons why Wallet hasn't taken off. For one, it's available only on a small number of devices, Nexus devices sold by Sprint in the US.
Store coverage is rather limited as well, so there aren't that many people. What's more, it looks like Sprint is backing out to develop its own payments system.
From the get-go, Apple doesn't have the first problem, the app will be available on all iOS 6 devices, which will mean most iPhones, the vast majority of devices still in use. That leaves the second big problem. But Apple has one very, very big asset, credit card information for some 400 million people, more than any other website or company on the planet.
It's not a question of if, it's a question of when Apple plans to start leveraging that info for real-world payments. And when it does, there will be few companies big enough to challenge it.