Softcard, the mobile operator joint venture formerly known as Isis, will soon be referred to only as Google Wallet. The Android maker is acquiring the company's technology and IP to improve its Google Wallet service, which will preload on all of AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile's Android smartphones later this year.
Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) announced the deal -- terms for which were undisclosed -- on Monday afternoon, noting in a blog post it is "acquiring some exciting technology and intellectual property from Softcard to make Google Wallet better." Google Wallet will now come pre-loaded on Android smartphones from AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile US Inc. running the KitKat operating system or higher.
"From tap and pay to storing loyalty and gift cards to sending money to friends, we've been working hard to make the Google Wallet app even more useful to you -- and there's lots more to come," the blog post reads.
Softcard was first launched in 2010 under the name Isis as a joint venture between the three operators, and financial institutions and credit card companies, using near-field communications (NFC) for short-range contactless payments on the smartphone. Interestingly, Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) declined to join the group, opting instead to strike a deal with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) to preload its Wallet on Android devices. (See US Carriers Combine Mobile Wallets, Why Sprint Doesn't Put Money on Isis and Google Taps Sprint for Tap-to-Pay.)
The joint venture has had trouble gaining traction the past five years with several delayed launches, changes in business model, limited merchant and customer participation, layoffs and, of course, the need to change its name in September as it got confused with the terrorist group Isis. (See Isis (the Mobile Wallet One) to Rebrand, Isis Changes Name to Softcard and Mobile Money: What's the End Game?)
Softcard says current Softcard customers can continue to use the tap-to-pay app and that more information is coming for customers and partners in the coming weeks.
The acquisition is an interesting one for Google as well. It comes just a few days after Samsung Corp. acquired contactless technology developer LoopPay. The handset maker is expected to unveil its own mobile payments service at next week's Mobile World Congress show. It will face competition from its Android supplier, and both will be taking on Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), which recently introduced its own Apple Pay service, as well as others like PayPal keen to own the burgeoning mobile payments space. (See Samsung Buys LoopPay to Take on Apple Pay and Apple's New iPads: Built for the Enterprise.)
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading