Samsung has launched its mobile wallet in Spain this week, marking its first entry into the European market. Already live in the US, South Korea and China, the firm is now looking to make its mark in Europe.
Samsung is launching its wallet in Spain ahead of Apple Pay, which is only live in the UK in Europe but is already live in Australia, Singapore, China and the US. It also enters Spain ahead of Android Pay, which just launched in the UK – its first market outside the US.
At launch Samsung Pay will be available to CaixaBank and imaginBank customers with Abanca and Banco Sabadell coming “soon”. Retail giant El Corte Inglés will also make its store cards compatible with Samsung Pay.
There is a question mark over the launch, however. As flagged by Android Authority, the service can be used anywhere that a contactless card can be used in Spain (i.e. an NFC-enabled terminal), but not with more old school magnetic point of sale devices, which is an crucial differentiator of its service in other markets.
EXPLAINER: In markets like the US, Samsung Pay customers are able to pay using their phones at older terminals that rely on something called Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST) technology. This essentially emits a magnetic signal that replicates the magnetic strip you see on traditional payment cards. In Samsung Pay’s case, MST sends a magnetic signal from the phone to the payment terminal’s card reader, which emulates the swiping of a physical card. Samsung acquired this technology when it bought LoopPay last February and it is seen as an important advantage over its core rivals.
For merchants, especially smaller stores, compatibility with MST is a big bonus as it means they don’t have to upgrade their point of sale hardware to accept mobile payments from Samsung’s wallet. Samsung has not explained why this feature isn’t available in Spain, but for now adoption will be hampered by the number of contactless and NFC terminals available.
Samsung says it picked Spain due to the high smartphone penetration rate and the digitalisation of the banking sector. Samsung Spain also commissioned research that found 64% of consumers use credit or debit cards for all or most of their purchases in the country, with higher usage (71%) among people aged between 35 and 44.
“The Spanish market’s progressive approach to digital payments makes it a logical launch market for Samsung Pay,” says Nathalie Oestmann, director at Samsung Pay Europe. “We believe that the comprehensive support from telecom service providers; networks and processors; and banks and merchants, will help to accelerate mobile payments adoption across Spain.”
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