MasterCard Bets On NFC: Releases PayPass Developer Toolkit For Android, BlackBerry Platforms

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Apple decided to forgo NFC support with the release of the iPhone 5, but that hasn’t stopped payments companies from continuing to invest in the space. MasterCard released a software development kit for its mobile PayPass technology with support for the Android and Blackberry OS 7 platforms. The toolkit will allow mobile operators and third-party developers the ability to integrate support for its “tap-and-go” contactless mobile payments solution into smartphones and other mobile applications.

The SDK is meant to speed the time to market for MasterCards’s NFC-based mobile payment technology by offering a set of tools that developers can easily drop into their apps, with the user interface complete. MasterCard notes that there are now more than 70 smartphones that have been approved as being compatible with PayPass, including the Samsung Galaxy S3, HTC One X, Sony Xperia S and BlackBerry Bold 9900. In a demonstration video here, James Anderson, Group Head, SVP Mobile Product Development at MasterCard, hints that other mobile platforms may be supported in the future. Since iPhone support is done for, that only leaves Windows Phone or Nokia Symbian platforms even worth considering.

Included in the toolkit are API code libraries, API documentation, a developer guide, sample UI application code, a white-label reference UI application, and a test suite for compliance. These allow PayPass technology to be integrated into a variety of different interfaces, such as mobile payment apps, mobile banking apps, or mobile wallets. Specifically, the white-labeling option allows banks to create their own branded applications that support contactless payments powered by MasterCard. In conjunction with today’s release, MasterCard has also sped up its approval process for PayPass-enabled apps and services, the company noted.

PayPass is accepted worldwide, and MasterCard cites Juniper Research’s estimates that, by 2014, there will be an estimated 300 million phones equipped with NFC technology. Gartner, too, has bullishly forecast $617 billion in mobile payments by 2016. But without Apple’s support, many in the industry are beginning to question whether or not NFC will ever really take off for payments — at least, here in the U.S. Even if there are millions of NFC-enabled devices available, it’s hard to ignore the impact Apple has on markets and related traction for various technologies. If Apple goes one way and Android et al. go another, having the industry come to some sort of consensus on payment standards will remain a challenge, then users will be confused, and traction will stagnate.

One of MasterCard’s first customers in North America is BMO (Bank of Montreal), which is the only Canadian bank to offer these “tap and go” mobile payments. But MasterCard had previously made deals with operators in Europe also focused on furthering its NFC initiatives. For example, MasterCard in August signed a five-year deal with Everything Everywhere in the European market, which will see the two companies working to develop a co-branded, contactless NFC payments solution. MasterCard also has deals with Deutsche Telekom in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, a deal with Turkcell in Turkey, and has been working with Orange on QuickTap, the first commercial NFC payment service in the U.K.

The SDK is free to license, and is available here.

According to Anderson, this announcement indeed is meant to complement MasterCard’s current work with partners like EE, DT, Turkcell and others. The toolkit is designed to make it easy for partners to quickly deliver user interface apps, and it’s also being made available to all of MasterCard’s current partners to use, if they wish.