PayPal’s Pebble App Heralds New Wearable Payments Market

November 20, 2014         By: Michael Foster

The Apple Watch isn’t here yet, but wearables are still a thing, and PayPal is trying to get first-mover advantage in the wearable payments (wPayments?) market.

Payment-enabled wearables have been overshadowed by talk of Apple Pay and mobile payments, but we can take a glimpse at the future, because the PayPal for Pebble service is here.

The app is quite simple and allows users to pay in two ways. With some retailers, they can check into the retailer’s store using the PayPal for Pebble app, then check out their shopping cart. More retailers will accept another solution: the Pebble app will display a code, which you can then use to check out at the retailer.

There are a couple of problems with this solution.

First, it’s ugly. As in late 1990s UI level ugly. The app is black and white and has icons that would be more suited to a preschool learning tool than a multi-billion dollar payments platform, but that may be due to the limitations of Pebble’s hardware.

Secondly, it doesn’t really make payments easier. Opening the app, waiting for it to load, finding the right retailer, showing the code or tapping on the phone—it’s all an ordeal. This is nowhere near as easy as Apple Pay or, for that matter, using a credit card.

And this is the problem with wPayments in their ultra-ultra-alpha incarnation.

It’s too soon to be workable for the mainstream.But like the Samsung Gear (or, for that matter, Windows tablets of the 1990s), we’re seeing the first iteration of a new platform that will probably become mainstream, pretty, and popular once Apple releases it.

We already know that the Apple Watch has Apple Pay functionality, and a quick comparison of its UI with PayPal’s makes it pretty clear which one is sexier.


Apple Watch


So thank you, PayPal, for showing us that wPayments have arrived. Now if you’ll excuse us, we’ll be checking out with our Apple Watches, thank you (that is, unless we’re at Rite-Aid, CVS, Best Buy, Walmart…)