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Say Buh-Bye To Softcard, Hello Google Wallet

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Softcard, which was recently purchased by Google, will be officially closing up shop on March 31.

The carrier-backed mobile payments system announced on Wednesday that the Android and Windows Phone apps for Softcard will no longer be available on the last day of this month. Instead, Softcard is pointing to Google Wallet, which will be incorporating part of the technology underlying Softcard, to "power the next generation of mobile wallets."

Softcard says there will be no automatic way for its users to switch to Google Wallet; anyone who wants to continue using Google's own mobile payments system will have to sign up manually on his own. Users who are thinking of having their Softcard accounts terminated immediately will also be able to do so by contacting their mobile carriers.

Once Softcard is permanently terminated, users will no longer be able to use their payment and loyalty cards on Softcard, although they can still use the plastic cards when making purchases in-store and online.

Originally known by the unfortunate name of Isis, Softcard was the result of a venture backed by Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile in a rare show of collaboration among the carriers to compete with Google Wallet. Long before Apple rolled out Apple Pay last year, Google had been trying to convince the carriers to include Google Wallet in their smartphones to no avail, opening a window of opportunity for Apple to make an entry.

Like Google Wallet and Apple Pay, Softcard uses contactless NFC to enable payments made through their smartphones. However, Softcard is a less-attractive option than both systems because it requires users to use a special SIM card while offering limited credit card support.

Last month, Google announced that it has acquired "some exciting technology and intellectual property from Softcard" that will be used to "make Google Wallet better." Google also said that it has struck a partnership with the wireless carriers to bring Google Wallet to all smartphones running on Android KitKat and up.

Google's new technologies and the loss of one less competitor will likely put in a better position to create a mobile payments system that could serve as an alternative to Apple Pay, which quickly accounted for 1 percent of all digital payments made just a month after its release.

However, Google is not the only major technology player to take a stab at mobile payments. South Korean electronics maker and Apple's long-time rival Samsung has also announced Samsung Pay in the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy 6S Edge unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, and it could prove to be a more competitive alternative than Google Wallet, which, like Apple Pay, requires retailers to set up newer, more expensive point-of-sale terminals that are compatible with NFC.

On the other hand, Samsung's mobile payments system works with both NFC and older card readers by using magnetic secure transmission (MST) to mimic the magnetic stripes on credit and debit cards.

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