Don’t expect a lone winner, said Gil Mermelstein, New York-lead for bank consulting firm West Monroe Partners. “There won’t be just one player.”
Just as MasterCard (MA) - Get Report , Visa (V) - Get Report , American Express (AXP) - Get Report and Discover (DFS) - Get Report co-exist in card processing, so, believes Mermelstein, there will be multiple mobile wallets that appeal to diverse consumers and retailers.
“We are in year one of the mobile wallet wars,” said Jason Oxman, CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association. It won’t be a quick fight, he suggested.
But there are some early winners and losers.
The plus: An elegant, easy user experience powered by Near Field Communication.
Minuses: Usable in what Apple claims is 220,000 stores, but many retail experts said the real number is half that because terminals may not be properly installed and employees may not be trained. There just are not that many places to shop with Apple Pay.
The other minus: It runs only on the latest iPhones and there are no straightforward ways to get it on earlier iPhones. Apple has indicated no interest in creating an Android version.
The plus: it runs on most newer Android phones. The potential user base is immense. Because it is based on Near Field Communication, it should work in most stores where Apple Pay is available.
“There has to be an Android solution,” said Marc Freed-Finnegan, formerly the Google Wallet lead, now CEO of Index, a startup focused on helping retailers better collect customer data.
Minuses: Google has neglected Google Wallet during the past 18 months and it presently is significantly balkier to use than Apple Pay. It also lacks the security "tokens" built into Apple Pay, although most experts believe that those would be easy to build into Google Wallet.
The plus: With support from Verizon (VZ) - Get Report , AT&T (T) - Get Report , and T-Mobile (TMUS) - Get Report , this carrier-owned wallet works on most newer Android phones and, because it is NFC based, it also should work at retail at locations that accept Apple Pay.
Softcard also claims to be enabling its payments on iPhone in 2015, although experts expressed uncertainty about that because at present Apple has locked down the NFC chip in the iPhone 6 to work only with Apple Pay.
Minuses: Softcard -- formerly known as Isis -- has consistently stumbled in winning consumers and merchants.
There also has been resistance to paying carrier fees for enabling transactions, although some experts believe that if Apple can get a percentage on every sale (believed to be 15 basis points), Softcard could likewise.
Plus: High name recognition and an installed base of 157 million digital wallets.
Minuses: The company has seemed stalled in regard to a mobile wallet for many months.
“PayPal clearly is finding its way,” said Mermelstein.
A new CEO, Dan Schulman from American Express, has been brought in, PayPal’s split from parent eBay (EBAY) - Get Report is in the works, and, said multiple experts, PayPal just may reinvent itself as a mobile wallet.
But the clock is ticking.
MCX, a.k.a. CurrentC
Plus: CurrentC has backing from many of the nation’s biggest retailers, including WalMart (WMT) - Get Report , CVS (CVS) - Get Report , Rite Aid (RAD) - Get Report and many more. This QR code mobile payment solution also is said to work on most cellphones.
Minuses: The user experience is “not great,” said Mermelstein.
In worse news, CurrentC also has just acknowledged that it was hacked, and "unauthorized third parties obtained the e-mail addresses of some" users, according to email sent out by CurrentC. It denied that any payment information was stolen and indications are that only small numbers of user emails may be involved.
But the negative press has been plentiful.
The other minus: Multiple experts said indications are that CurrentC will not permit payment via traditional credit cards. To minimize processing fees, apparently the network will link directly to consumers’ ACH -- that is, checking -- accounts. Consumers will need powerful inducements to go that route, said the experts. But they also said there is no ignoring WalMart’s market domination.
Is that all the wallets? Not for long.
Expect still more, said Oxman. “We will see an explosion of them” and that is because Apple alone seemingly has validated a market and now everybody wants a piece.
At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
TheStreet Ratings team rates APPLE INC as a Buy with a ratings score of A+. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:
"We rate APPLE INC (AAPL) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, growth in earnings per share, revenue growth, notable return on equity and expanding profit margins. Although the company may harbor some minor weaknesses, we feel they are unlikely to have a significant impact on results."
You can view the full analysis from the report here: AAPL Ratings Report