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Amazon's Mobile Payment Plans May Include Biometrics, Take On Square

Mobile Commerce Insider Featured Article

July 28, 2014

Amazon's Mobile Payment Plans May Include Biometrics, Take On Square

By Steve Anderson
Contributing TMCnet Writer

It was less than a week ago when we first heard about Amazon Wallet, a system that left a lot of observers' heads in the midst of scratching as a collective wonder arose around just what Amazon was thinking. By all reports, it was a system with a bare handful of features, and few of the expected standard features were in evidence. But now, new reports have emerged that suggest Amazon Wallet may just have been the start of things, and that Amazon has some new mechanisms in mind that will let it take the fight to frontrunners like Square starting as early as this August.

The word came out of internal documents from Staples (News - Alert), who is apparently set to start stocking the new item. More specifically, the item in question is a complete credit card reader system in the manner of Square, and will likely work in the standard fashion: connect the reader to a smartphone or similar device, scan cards, and accept payments via a mobile app. It's being referred to as the “Amazon Card Reader” in Staples' internal documents, and between that and the word about Amazon Wallet, it's likely got some reconsidering the picture.

Further reports suggest that the product will not launch much before the second half of August, as individual Staples locations have been asked to refrain from posting new signage on the release until August 12. Given that August 12 is a Tuesday that would actually put it out of reach for many stores' sale pricing, which seems to regularly change on Sundays with the arrival of new advertising circulars. That in turn makes a release date likely from about August 16, though there's nothing saying that Staples can't launch a special for the release early.

Further word goes on to note that Amazon's Lab126 hardware division has been working on biometric scanners, particularly on fingerprints. This may further connect to both Amazon Card Reader and Amazon Wallet, proving quite a few exciting new possibilities for the systems to follow. Naturally, this needs to be taken with a grain of salt as it's based on internal documents from a retailer as opposed to, say, a full press release from the company proper, but it isn't so outlandish as to be easily dismissed out of hand.

When Amazon Wallet first made its appearance, there were plenty who wondered just what Amazon was getting at by releasing what looked like a half-finished app with a lot of its functionality inherently neutered right out of the gate. But with the arrival of the card reader system, and reports of biometric fingerprint readers set to get involved, that could help explain just why Amazon Wallet looked a bit unfinished: because, perhaps, it was. With several new developments coming out of Amazon focused on the payment field—on one end of same or another—it looks like Amazon Wallet could end up being more of a modular system, or otherwise, part of a larger modular whole. By the time all the pieces hit the board, Amazon could have the makings of a pretty impressive chess match afoot.

Only time will tell, ultimately, just what the whole thing looks like, but one thing is clear: Amazon isn't letting the concept of mobile payments go without a fight. Whether online payments or real-world payments sent through online channels, Amazon looks ready to offer up the necessary infrastructure to make it all work.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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