Diapers, wallets, what's next?

Amazon closes out its mobile wallet trial after 6 months

It looks like Amazon’s diapers weren’t the only product the e-commerce giant retired Wednesday. The company has shut down its mobile wallet beta, which allowed Android and Fire phone users to store loyalty and gift cards in a digital billfold.

In a statement given to CNET, [company]Amazon[/company] spokesman Tom Cook said the e-commerce giant learned plenty from the six-month trial, and that it would apply those lessons to future Amazon products. But he didn’t say if Amazon had plans to bring its wallet back as a commercial product or if it would revisit the concept of smartphone payments in the future.

[company]Apple[/company] Pay has simultaneously reinvigorated the market for contactless and mobile payments while putting a lot of pressure on competing technologies. [company]Google[/company] Wallet has seen a big uptick in near-field communications (NFC) transactions, but it’s also been scaling back Google Wallet’s other features such as Digital Goods, which let you use its app to buy stuff outside of the Google Play store.

[company]Softcard[/company] — the carrier NFC payments system formerly know as Isis — just laid off 60 employees, and the latest rumors have it that Google and Softcard want to merge their wallet efforts. Meanwhile MCX, a smartphone billfold effort backed by the country’s biggest retailers, is fighting (and losing) a public relations war with Apple over its merchants’ resistance on accepting Apple Pay.

It might be tempting to view the closure of Amazon Wallet as the company conceding victory to competing smartphone payment technologies, but I think we would be reading too much into its actions. Amazon Wallet was never really an aggressive move into retail commerce like Apple Pay or Google Wallet. It never let you store credit cards or make a secure payment at the register. Instead, it was basically a way to store a bunch of loyalty and gift cards in a digital format, so merchants can scan in a bar code from your phone rather than a piece of plastic.

If Amazon is really going to go after the smartphone payments space, I imagine it would launch a much more fully featured wallet in the future. And if it doesn’t, Amazon got a lot of good data from beta that it could apply to its other mobile payments efforts, particularly the mobile point-of-sale credit card reader it just launched to compete with Square.