Apple Pay rival CurrentC to start rolling out in US next month

The payment system has been in internal trials for months

CurrentC, an electronic payment system backed by many of the biggest retailers in the U.S., will begin a limited public roll-out in August, Bloomberg News reported on Friday.

The smartphone-based technology is intended to rival payment services from Apple, Google and Samsung, and an August launch would be in line with the "mid-2015" schedule the company told IDG News Service in April.

CurrentC will offer the same type of convenience as its rivals, enabling consumers to pay at participating retail outlets by phone. But rather than rely on the phone's wireless NFC (near-field communications) chip, the first-generation CurrentC involves the customer scanning a barcode on a retail terminal to initiate payment.

That's been derided by supporters of rival systems as being more cumbersome, but until trials begin it's difficult to evaluate just how different it really is.

It's also too early to tell if convenience will be the only factor that differentiates competitors.

Merchant Content Exchange (MCX), the consortium that operates the service, said it would initially debit money from a customer's bank account rather than charge an associated credit card. That saves the couple of percent they lose in credit card fees on each transaction and is one of the main benefits to member retailers.

But it could also be key to attracting users if some of those savings are passed on to customers.

CurrentC has already been tested in several undisclosed markets around the U.S., but its use has been restricted to employees of member retailers, which include Walmart, 7-Eleven, Dunkin Donuts, Sears, Best Buy, Exxon Mobil and Gap.

MCX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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