Fosbury: One small step for digital wallets, but no giant leap for convenience
Digital wallets are often frustrating, limited, and more trouble than they're worth. We were promised the ability to use coupons, movie passes, and theater tickets without having to carry around a bunch of itty-bitty pieces of paper -- instead we got barely-functional apps and services that make those printed stubs seem like gifts from some sweet, merciful deity.
Fosbury, a member of TechStars' Austin-based accelerator, is today announcing that its digital coupon creation, management, and usage service now supports Samsung Wallet, a recently-launched digital wallet exclusive to Samsung devices.
Fosbury's service allows users to import information from social media platforms, create coupons, and track their usage on both Samsung Wallet and Apple's Passbook, which comes pre-installed on every iPhone. Fosbury CEO Lucas Tieleman says that the company chose to support Samsung Wallet and Passbook because of their creators' dominance in the market and Android's well-documented fragmentation.
"Android is pretty balkanized, I would say, with a lot of fragmentation and tons of operating systems going around," Tieleman says. Samsung's popularity -- the company's products represent a large portion of the global Android market -- made supporting Samsung Wallet an easy decision. "It made more sense to integrate with [Samsung Wallet] because it'll probably give us a deeper penetration."
Digital coupons managed by Fosbury's service are sent to digital wallet users via text message or email and can be restricted to certain locations -- Tieleman sent me a trial coupon* limited to "Upstate New York," and other, more populous areas like San Francisco or New York City can also be targeted. Adding the coupon to my Passbook was easy enough, and creating a coupon via Fosbury's website doesn't seem to be particularly hard, either.
The only trouble is that Fosbury, like many other startups working to improve digital wallets, is only solving one problem among many. Physical wallets, pockets, and purses are expected to carry a wide variety of items, from cash and credit cards to coupons and boarding passes.
Unfortunately, many digital wallets, from manufacturer-made offerings like Samsung Wallet and Passbook to startup-created services like Square or Fosbury, focus on just a few -- or perhaps just one -- aspect of the entire "wallet experience," so to speak.
Put another way: Many digital solutions are improving digital payments or coupons, but have yet to reach the wide variety of uses associated with a true "wallet."
That would require a comprehensive solution that doesn't focus on just one aspect of the wallet -- something that's easier said than done, given the wide number of operating systems, devices, expectations, and regional differences with which digital wallet-makers must work.
Startups are often told to do one thing well, and that's what companies like Square and Fosbury are doing; the problem is that consumers don't expect their wallets to serve one function. A better payments system or digital coupon does not a better wallet make.
Maybe we'll eventually replace our physical wallets with digital counterparts. For now, we're stuck with what we've got: Physical wallets, credit cards, and seemingly endless folds of coupons, boarding passes, and movie tickets.