Would-be Apple Pay rival CurrentC closes beta, future uncertain

CurrentC, a mobile payments app that once aimed to take on Apple Pay, Android Pay and others, is shutting down its beta program, deactivating users’ accounts, and not yet commenting on if or when it will return to the market as a consumer-facing payments application. The news, announced on the CurrentC website this week, follows earlier signs of troubles for the retailer-backed app which laid off 30 employees earlier this year, while also announcing that it was postponing its plans for a nationwide launch.

The app was backed by a consortium of big-name retailers, Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), and was originally meant to rival other mobile payment systems like Apple Pay. MCX partners had included Walmart, Target, CVS, Best Buy and many other national retailers.

But the app had not been well-received. As competitors launched tap-based mobile payments that took advantage of NFC technology, CurrentC was designed to rely on QR codes. It later said it would aim to be “technology-agnostic.”

CurrentC’s service was also hacked during testing and users’ email addresses were stolen, which did not help matters. Then the company that powered the CurrentC application, Paydiant, was acquired by another payments rival, PayPal, last year.

Plus, some of MCX’s retailer partners moved away from CurrentC – Walmart, for example, rolled out its own Walmart Pay solution in its own app. Others, like Best Buy, opted to enable NFC on their terminals in order to accept the more widely used mobile payment technologies, like Apple, Android and Samsung Pay.

And let’s not forget that mobile payment adoption is still slow for even these more popular solutions – the majority of consumers are still swiping credit cards, not tapping.

In other words, CurrentC had a host of issues to contend with, before today.

According to the company website, the CurrentC beta ends on June 28, 2016, at which point all active accounts will be disabled and stores will no longer accept CurrentC payments.

However, MCX is not yet claiming that this is the end of CurrentC. In a FAQ, the company writes that “we have not yet determined the future timing of CurrentC but we will keep you posted.”

Previously, MCX had said that it would focus more on its partnerships with financial institutions, like Chase, to enable and scale its mobile payment solutions.

That could mean that CurrentC, while closed for now, could re-emerge as a different type of product in the future.