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Top 10 mobile payments developments of Q1

Mobile payments continued to reach for new heights this past quarter, with strong initiatives in contactless payment options, mobile Web purchasing and wearable commerce promising to attract new users.

Mobile commerce heavyweights such as Amazon, Visa and Chase continued their upward trajectories, innovating in the space with the rollout of selfie payments, an open API platform and cardless ATMs, respectively. Meanwhile, payment solutions including Apple Pay and Samsung Pay enjoyed more widespread expansions, signaling consumers’ growing comfort with virtual payment options.

Marketers and consumers alike are increasingly searching for ways to simplify their daily experiences by way of mobile, meaning that financial institutions must revamp their offerings to adapt to the latest technologies. However, judging by recent advancements, many are already excelling in this respect.

Here are the top 10 mobile payments developments of 2016’s first quarter, in alphabetical order.

Amazon eyes selfie payments but starring role not guaranteed
Amazon is joining a growing list of brands, including MasterCard and Alibaba, that are banking on facial recognition technology to appeal to younger consumers and address security concerns for mobile payments.

The Internet conglomerate has reportedly filed for a patent that would involve a smartphone or computer prompting its user to complete certain motions, such as blinking or smiling, to verify identity and complete a purchase.

The company’s move highlights the ongoing push for more streamlined mcommerce experiences, with four-digit passwords slowly becoming outdated.

Android Pay’s British debut raises stakes among competitors
As Android Pay begins its journey across the pond to British consumers’ smartphones, competitors such as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay will be forced to become creative in their efforts to gain new users by providing utility, including rewards, offers and order-ahead options.

Google recently announced that Android Pay will be available in Britain in the next several months, and will support Visa and MasterCard credit and debit cards from a plethora of national banks and financial institutions. This will provide consumers with more mobile payment options while simultaneously raising the competitive stakes between big players in the payments space.

Individuals will also be able to leverage Android Pay while buying tickets for the London Tube, suggesting that other mobile payment solutions should make themselves available in major travel and transportation hubs.

Apple Pay’s mobile Web arrival could spell trouble for PayPal
Apple is reportedly ramping up to bring Apple Pay to the mobile Web by the end of 2016, a decision that could spell good news for online retailers but threaten PayPal’s dominant role in the space.

The ability to make purchases on mobile sites with Apple Pay will reportedly be available for iPhone and iPad customers using the Safari browser.

As more retailers scheme up ways to acquire new customers via mobile sites, this Apple Pay integration has the potential to simplify checkout experiences and drive conversions.

Chase makes mobile power play with cardless ATMs
Chase is planning to roll out card-free ATM machines this year, allowing customers to withdraw funds and complete other financial transactions via their smartphones.

The machines will give customers account access by enabling them to input a code found within their Chase mobile apps, eliminating the need for them to carry around their debit or credit cards. Future incarnations of the ATMs may include upgrades that will let individuals access their accounts by using their smartphones’ near-field wireless communication tools.

Chase will also upgrade existing machines to contain more cash in different denominations. Consumers will be able to withdraw a higher amount of money – up to $3,000.

Los Angeles is latest big city to embrace mobile ticketing
Southern California’s commuter rail service Metrolink is the latest transit system to adopt mobile ticketing, showcasing how the transportation industry is moving toward untethered digital systems.

Metrolink is leveraging Masabi’s mobile app JustRide, allowing commuters to purchase tickets and redeem them through smartphone devices. More than 60 stations and seven train lines will offer this functionality.

Individuals will be able to browse train times, then purchase tickets through their personal devices and scan to enter, similar to how a paper ticket is used.

MasterCard tees up VR, wearables commerce at PGA tournament
MasterCard piloted its latest payment initiatives at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where this year’s attendees were able to experiment with a connected payments glove and engage with virtual reality commerce.

Attendees were able to purchase equipment while interacting with a commerce-enabled virtual reality experience and testing out a glove on which wearers could simply tap the point-of-sale system to purchase refreshments. Equipment and other merchandise could be bought as well.

The proceeds from purchased equipment were donated to charity organization Arnie’s Army by MasterCard.

Pizza Hut, Fandango jump on Visa’s new swipe-to-purchase button
Brands including Pizza Hut, Virgin America and Fandango are taking advantage of Visa Checkout’s new spin on mobile payment checkout buttons, which allows shoppers to make a purchase by swiping.

Consumers using Visa Checkout can now complete online and mobile transactions by sliding a miniature image of their credit card to the right and inputting their account password. The new feature may help Visa contend with Apple Pay and PayPal, which leverage thumbprint technology and one-click checkout buttons, respectively.

The new Visa Checkout swiping button is also available on the digital commerce offerings of other retailers, such as Best Buy, Staples, Gap, Neiman Marcus, Williams-Sonoma and Zulily.

Samsung Pay kicks off 2016 push with three-country expansion
Samsung Pay started off the New Year with a significant expansion, bringing its mobile payments solution to Singapore, Brazil and Australia in a move that underscored its decision to jockey for a leading role in commerce in 2016.

Samsung highlighted a key differentiating factor in its mobile solution – the fact that Samsung Pay is compatible with older mag-stripe terminals as well as newer NFC-equipped terminals. Its primary competitors, Android Pay and Apple Pay, only work with NFC-enabled terminals.

This suggests that Samsung Pay is usable in more locations than its counterparts, which could be a big selling point for consumers in the market for a new smartphone.

Visa’s open APIs signal battle against Silicon Valley payment platforms
Visa’s new developer platform, which provides third-party companies with the ability to sift through hundreds of commerce-related APIs, signals the brand’s desire to one-up its competitors by introducing a massive network of partnerships.

The platform currently possesses more than 150 APIs related to mobile checkouts, fraud prevention and people-to-people payments. Any app developer or company is welcome to access these tools – provided they are willing to experiment with implementing Visa’s infrastructure into their own solutions.

Visa will charge fees for those who introduce apps using its APIs. However, financial institutions and merchants are also able to leverage the program’s features.

WeChat disperses mobile money to Times Square revelers via Bluetooth
Messaging app WeChat brought the Chinese custom of Lucky Money to New York pedestrians during Chinese New Year, enabling Times Square passersby to shake their smartphones in front of designated billboards to have digital currency placed in the WeChat mobile wallet.

Consumers were asked to enable their smartphone’s Bluetooth settings, look for red envelope icons on Times Square billboards and shake their devices in front of those screens for a chance to win Lucky Money.

The digital funds went straight to consumers’ accounts in the WeChat wallet, letting them spend the money via WeChat’s payment service or withdraw it for personal use.