BARCELONA, MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS — During a Samsung developer conference here at Mobile World Congress this morning, the Korean company unveiled a new service called Samsung Wallet, which lets Samsung smartphone owners turn tickets, coupons, membership cards, boarding passes, and more into digital cards that they can store in a virtual wallet.
The service probably sounds familiar, and it is — Samsung Wallet is basically Apple’s Passbook, but for Samsung phones. It works in almost exactly the same way, and looks very similar, too.
Samsung clearly has good ideas of its own — it’s demonstrated that a lot with its Android devices. But it still can’t help but copy Apple. And Samsung Wallet is proof of that.
It’s only available as a developer preview at the moment, but when it gets its public release “soon” — almost certainly alongside the Galaxy S IV next month — it will allow Samsung smartphone owners to create digital cards on their smartphone and store them inside a virtual wallet. Each card has a barcode that can be used at payment desks.
Furthermore, the cards can be automatically updated, allowing users to see things like their latest balance on a voucher, or their gate information on a boarding pass. Yes, that’s right — just like Passbook.
The similarities go even further. Samsung Wallet also looks almost identical to Passbook — as you can see from the screenshot above. Even its home screen icon is very similar. Would it have killed Samsung to at least make it look a little different? At least it wouldn’t have been quite as obvious then.
Interestingly, Samsung Wallet won’t support NFC — even though the company’s handsets do. Like Apple, it believes retailers prefers barcodes, which they already have the technology to support. The company has already teamed up with the likes of Walgreens, Belly, Major League Baseball, Advanced Media, Expedia, Booking.com, Hotels.com, and Lufthansa.
Don’t think Samsung is shunning NFC altogether, though. The company’s new partnership with Visa will see future smartphone shipping with support for the company’s PayWave service, which will allow users to pay for good using only their smartphone.