Apple may be waiting to bring mobile payments to the masses, but MasterCard is forging ahead. The card network announced this week a software toolkit to help turn any Near Field Communication enabled Android or Blackberry smartphone into a mobile wallet.
MasterCard is making the free software development kit for its mobile PayPass application available for issuers, mobile network operators and third-party developers to download from the card brand's website.
"We want to make sure they [issuers and other developers] realize they don't have to be smartcard development experts to incorporate PayPass with this toolkit," MasterCard spokesperson Brian Gendron says.
MasterCard has already certified more than 70 models of NFC-equipped phones as Mobile PayPass compatible devices.
MasterCard designed the toolkit for Android and Blackberry OS 7 operating models. Previous Android and Blackberry models had been approved for MasterCard PayPass capabilities, Gendron says.
Currently, the toolkit applies only to applications in NFC-enabled smartphones, not for other mobile devices or NFC-enabled phone sleeves, Gendron says. Apple does not make any NFC-equipped iPhone models.
Prior to the launch of the toolkit, a software developer needed specialized skills to develop applications that could operate with the NFC capabilities of popular smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 or the Research in Motion BlackBerry Bold 9900, MasterCard stated in a press release.
A software developer should be able to make an application change in a matter of minutes with the toolkit, rather than inputting "reams of codes," Gendron says.
MasterCard's earlier work with open software toolkits focuses on using its network to enable software-based mobile payments and other applications. For example, an app from PaidPiper, which allows parents or employers to control spending on a mobile payment account, relies on MasterCard's software tools.
For PaidPiper's system, MasterCard even agreed to modify its timeline for rolling out certain features to make sure the developer had the tools in place to accomplish what it needed to do.
With mobile payments, MasterCard is playing the "simpler is better" card in encouraging application developers to include PayPass capabilities in their products, says David Kaminsky, analyst for emerging payments with Mercator Advisory Group.
"They are trying to reach people who have a lot of different mobile payment options on their plates with the message that 'what we are doing is simple and won't take a lot of your time,'" Kaminsky says.
Banks or mobile network operators with busy application developers would find that to be an appealing pitch because they could add new technology for their customers without taking time away from other aspects of their business, Kaminsky adds.