Visa and Vodafone unveil NFC mobile payment app for Android

Vodafone hopes app will convince Apple to support NFC on its iPhone

An upcoming Visa app for Vodafone smartphones will let customers use their mobile device to make payments at 100,000 Visa payWave terminals in Australia.

The Vodafone SmartPass app, announced today by Visa and Vodafone, is built for Google Android and relies on smartphones equipped with near-field communications (NFC) technology. ANZ is the bank providing the prepaid card and the acquiring bank for loading funds. Rev provides the technology that connects into VisaNet to process transactions.

SmartPass is currently a pilot project but the companies expect to make it public next year. The companies are using the Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone for the pilot.

Vodafone SmartPass works with existing Visa PayWave terminals.
Vodafone SmartPass works with existing Visa PayWave terminals.

The app launches first for Android devices but Vodafone plans to later port the app to Windows Phone devices, Vodafone general manager, Thomas Roets, told Computerworld Australia.

There are no plans to make the app available on the Apple iPhone because the device does not include NFC capability, Roets said. Vodafone hopes the app will help convince Apple to support NFC in future iterations of the iPhone, he said.

Vodafone considered NFC-equipped sleeves for the iPhone but decided it was too costly. Such a case is expensive to build and would have had to be resized for different form factors, he said.

The app will come pre-installed in new Vodafone smartphones with NFC. The payment service also requires an NFC-enabled SIM card with Visa’s payWave technology. Roets estimated that 80 per cent of Vodafone’s new devices in store will support SmartPass.

While SmartPass is exclusive to Vodafone, Visa wants to release similar apps for other telcos, Visa country manager Vipin Kalra said. “Our goal is that we bring the solution to as many consumers as possible,” Kalra said.

SmartPass is “a step towards a true digital wallet,” Kalra said. “A digital wallet sits in the cloud, whereas [SmartPass] is an app sitting on a SIM,” he said. “Eventually what we want to do is bring face-to-face and online purchases to one device.” Visa hopes to get to that point sometime next year, he said.

Vodafone SmartPass in a cab.
Vodafone SmartPass in a cab.

To make a payment using SmartPass, a user holds the mobile phone over a Visa payWave terminal and taps a large button on the touch screen.

SmartPass is prepaid, so users must add value to the app before they can make payments. Value can be added using any payment card, and the app can use NFC to scan in payment information from a Visa card equipped with payWave. Users can store card information in the app and set up automatic top-ups to add value when balance dips below a specified level.

For security, users can set up a PIN code for running the app. The app does not show a user’s balance unless the user selects to view it. If a user loses the mobile, SmartPass can be disabled in a manner similar to a lost credit card.

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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Tags AppleVodafoneAndroidiosiPhonevisaWindows Phonemobile paymentsNear Field Communications (NFC)payWaveSmartPass

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