Industry News

Do we really need more “smart plastic” innovation?

Like any fast-moving, high-stakes part of the tech sector, the mobile payments space sees its share of “me-too” activity, with firms under significant pressure to show that they are innovating. It is tempting to assume that something like this may be going on at Korean electronics giant LG, which is reportedly poised to follow Apple and Samsung in releasing an eponymous payment product.

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According to an exclusive late last week by Korean news portal ETNews (an English version can be found here) LG, which last year was the manufacturer of Google’s then-current model of Nexus phones, will unveil something called the “LG Pay White Card” at this month’s Mobile World Congress. But unlike Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, which are “traditional” digital payment/mobile wallet services tied to their handsets, the LG Pay White Card will be a swipeable electronic card capable of storing data from a range of other cards and payment instruments.

Such “smart plastic” or “universal” cards have been around for a while, with Coin being the best-known entrant in the field. But even if LG introduce several innovations, one could be forgiven for wondering if this is what LG wants as a “calling card” for its mobile prowess. The only thing that is actually “mobile” about the card is that the user can configure it from their LG handset. Moreover, there is little indication that the “smart plastic” approach is destined to catch on, with one leading competitor having recently gone under, leaving behind many aggrieved users.

So while it is great to see LG and firms from across the mobile spectrum bringing out new products and services, when it comes to mobile payments, we expect them to be made through the mobile phone. Nevertheless, we will be eager to learn more about LG Pay at Mobile World Congress.