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Apple Pay Takes On A Crowded Field

Updated! Cupertino, Calif. – Today’s launch of the Apple Pay mobile payment system will see a long list of retail participants – Macy’s, Staples, RadioShack, Office Depot and American Express, to name a few – but the roster is more noteworthy for those not on it.

Top chains including Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Lowe’s and Sears, as well as oil companies Shell and Sunoco, are throwing their collective $1 trillion weight behind a rival pay system they co-founded two years ago. The joint venture, called Merchant Customer Exchange, plans to launch its own “CurrentC” platform sometime next year across some 110,000 merchant locations.

Also vying for wireless-wallet share are no less than Google and PayPal.

British Internet entrepreneur Dan Wagner, founder/CEO of his own payment platform, Powa Technologies, says the groundswell of apps and services is overwhelming shoppers and merchants alike.

“Consumers are finding themselves increasingly swamped by mobile payment apps,” he argued, while “retailers are likewise faced with the difficult decision of which mobile payment service to choose … Without a clear and universal choice, how can they be sure they have picked a VHS and not a Betamax?”

While there’s plenty of digital cash to go around – Wagner projects a $1 trillion-plus global market by 2017 – there’s clearly a Battle Royale brewing in the mobile payment space, and Apple will have to fight for its piece of the pie. But Apple Pay has a head-start with more than 10 million iPhone 6 owners who can now pay for transactions at retail with their phones. Left out are the more than half billion earlier-model iPhones sold by Apple since 2007, but Apple sees the mobile payment platform as incentive for many of those iPhone owners to upgrade to the latest model.