Mobile payments and messaging apps

2018-12-02 2 min read

    I wrote a post almost a month ago describing my relationship with messaging apps: despite the fact that are dozens of messaging apps competing against one another I treat them all as a commodity. The same situation exists with mobile payments. It feels less fragmented than the messaging space and yet there are quite a few players here: Apple Wallet, Google Pay, PayPal, Venmo (owned of PayPal), Zelle, Cash App, in addition to the region specific companies, such as AliPay and WeChat in China to PayTM in India.

    Compared to a messaging app getting set up with a mobile payments app is more difficult since you’re often required to link it to a financial account but once that is done you’re generally good to go. The underlying interface is the currency itself so as long as you’re able to withdraw money from these apps you can keep shuffling money between apps without a second thought.

    My experience with Apple Pay is illustrative. I started by connecting some of my credit cards to check it out and have been using it at a few stores. A few months ago I went out to lunch with a coworker and instead of paying me back using Venmo he sent an Apple Pay request. I didn’t even know that Apple Pay had social payment functionality. I was curious, accepted the payment, and now my account has a balance like any other app. In fact I can even use this balance to pay at any store that accepts Apple Pay. I didn’t have to do anything special or novel and it worked just like any other payment app. I’m sure there’s a lot of subtlety and nuance I’m glossing over but in my limited use case they suffer the same problem as messaging apps - the offering is commoditized and people will use whichever one they need at any point in time.