Sprint’s About to Make its Second Mobile Payments Snafu

by Wall St. Daily
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A word of advice to all of you Sprint (NYSE: S) customers anxiously waiting to purchase a Galaxy S III when it’s available next Thursday: If you plan on using Google Wallet, you might want to hold off for a bit.

According to a recent report from NFC Times, Sprint’s working on its own mobile payments offering that could launch as early as this summer.

There’s no official word from Sprint yet on the matter. The company told NFC Times that it’s “proud to be the first carrier to deliver Google Wallet… In keeping with our open approach, Sprint is actively working with others in the mobile payment ecosystem. We will continue to bring practical, easy-to-use mobile payment solutions to customers on Sprint devices, however, we do not have any news to share at this time.”

Now, if this proves to be accurate, it certainly won’t be good news for Google Wallet. As Sprint is the only carrier with which Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) can show off its application ahead of the upcoming launch of competing mobile payments venture, Isis.

With that said, I’m convinced that the biggest loser here would be Sprint.

Here’s why…

Sprint Should Keep a Death Grip on Google Wallet

New mobile payments competitors are entering the fray all the time, some good, some not-so good.

But with so many factors to consider in developing a successful point-of-sale application, like merchant technology, carrier acceptance and device compatibility, there’s really no room for all of these competitors to make it to mainstream use. If they did, it would just add more confusion to the checkout process instead of streamlining it. As Nick Hughes of Tech Crunch asks, “Did we just unveil the new ‘we don’t accept American Express’ of our generation?”

In the end, we can safely assume (or at least hope) that the mobile payments race is going to boil down to a few strong candidates. And at this point, I’m talking about Google Wallet and Isis.

Isis hasn’t even launched yet. But as a joint venture between Verizon (NYSE: VZ), AT&T (NYSE: T) and T-Mobile, Isis has immediate exposure to over 240 million subscribers when it debuts this summer.

And although Google’s payment app has been snubbed by Isis carriers in anticipation of their own mobile payment launch, users have already found ways around the blockade. Plus, with 900,000 people joining Android’s ranks daily, sheer numbers should help keep Google Wallet alive – with or without Sprint.

Sprint simply can’t hope to compete with that.

This isn’t the first flub Sprint’s made regarding mobile payments, either. NFC Times reports that “the planned Sprint wallet comes more than two years after Sprint dropped out of the planned joint venture that would become Isis. A source involved with the formation of the group said Sprint bowed out because it didn’t see a sufficient return on investment from the project given the funding needed.”

Big mistake.

Now, I’m all about rooting for the underdog. But unless Sprint has some amazing trick up its sleeve that will make its offering stand out in a big way, it’s just too late in the game to try to one-up the competition.

So sticking with Google Wallet will at least allow the company to stay afloat as the mobile payments race intensifies. (Especially considering that NFC Times also says that Google is working on a substantial upgrade to its service.) While embarking on its own would be mobile payments suicide.

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