Mobile companies and payment processors continue to think about ways to merge their products as smartphones become more widely used, but the picture is getting complicated. Verizon announced Monday that it is now partnering with American Express to install a mobile-payments application on its phones and tablets, which appears to be separate from work both companies are doing on a different type of mobile-payment structure.
The deal integrates an AmEx application called Serve into Verizon phones and tablets, and it’s likely one of those apps that can’t be deleted. Serve allows you to send money to another Serve user with a mobile phone and a preloaded account maintained by AmEx, but the more interesting part of the deal is that Verizon and AmEx are working on a feature that would let mobile users pay for goods and services using their Verizon accounts at merchants that already accept a traditional Serve credit card.
That could be an easier solution for getting critical mass behind mobile payments than trying to get retailers to install new equipment for reading NFC (near-field communications) wireless chips, which is what many other strategies, including Google Wallet and Isis, a wireless carrier consortium that includes AmEx, will require. It also solves the problem of convincing consumers to open yet another account in order to make payments, since carrier billing is a pretty established way of paying for items from one’s mobile device.
The two companies are also going to provide deals and offers to Verizon customers, which AmEx also does with Sprint (NYSE: S) through an earlier Serve partnership between those two companies.