The mobile wallet solution built by Canada’s three major carriers will be shutting down on Aug. 26, according to SureTap’s website, and the firm’s chief operating officer says Apple Inc.’s limitations on developers is partly to blame.
Suretap has been removed from the Google Play Store and BlackBerry World Apps store as of today. Existing app users will be able to use the service for payments until Aug. 26, and after that it will display an error message. More details on the service discontinuation are on Suretap’s website.
Suretap was launched in June 2015 as a collaborative effort between Bell Canada, Rogers Communications, and Telus Corp. and provided a way for NFC-enabled Android and BlackBerry devices to securely store payment credentials and use them for transactions at tap-to-pay POS terminals. Suretap was consolidated into Toronto-based Enstream, another joint entity operated by the carriers, in April.
Suretap entered the market to solve the problem of providing a digital wallet application and spur more adoption of mobile payments, says Almis Ledas, chief operating officer at Enstream. Its team saw the need to consolidate access and infrastructure to mobile payments work, but now the market has evolved to the point of fragmentation across different mobile platforms and applications.
While Suretap could access the secure element on BlackBerry and Android devices, Apple does not allow third-party developers access to store data on the iPhone’s secure element, instead setting it aside solely for use with Apple Pay.
“If we’d been able to deploy a wallet on Apple and non-Apple handsets, we would have more access for issuers and it would still be in existence today,” Ledas says. “We went to Apple and talked about getting access to the secure element. The answers was clear – no.”
While not being supported on Apple’s handsets – which make up about one-third of smartphones in Canada – was partly to blame for Suretap’s demise, it wasn’t the full story either. The decision to shut down the service was made even prior to Apple Pay’s deal with the major five Canadian banks announced in May, he says. The rationale being that there was no longer a need to provide another digital wallet to support a mobile payments eco-system.
Samsung Pay, Google Pay, and Canadian solution Ugo are among other wallet apps on the market. Even most banks opted not to use Suretap, instead building their own apps for mobile payments on Android. (Though some of those apps rely on backend services provided by Enstream.) So, while Suretap achieved good distribution by being pre-loaded on smartphones and also driving millions of downloads, it lacked wide support for bank credentials. Only CIBC and Rogers Bank (which is only a credit card issuer) supported Suretap.
“As the device universe split, the base we could serve became smaller and smaller,” Ledas says. With certain fixed costs required to operate and just not enough users to justify it, the writing was on the wall.
Suretap’s user base was building slowly and gradually, and even saw a spike after it added support for loyalty programs last November, Ledas says, but that is sure to drop off now.
“There was no business model for loyalty cards,” he says. “There’s no business rationale for maintaining a wallet as a shared utility for banks and phone companies.”
Ledas and his team, having been consolidated into Enstream already, will continue working for that business unit. Enstream continues its operations providing mobile payments and identity verification platform services to financial institutions and online service providers.