Mobile Payment Apps Are Still Bad At Failing (But They're Getting Better)

Mobile payment applications are slowly improving their ability to handle unexpected glitches, but they still have a ways to go, according to PaymentsSource.

Case in point: the NY Waterway app, which lets commuters pay the fare for the ferry between New York and New Jersey. The app requires a signal to purchase an e-ticket, and then again later to activate it for boarding. Because e-tickets disappear after activation, users must wait until shortly before the boat arrives before activating them. But when the boat arrives, the app doesn't always work.

A major failure came on April 29, when underground trains between New York and New Jersey abruptly shut down. Commuters who tried to use the NY Waterway app to purchase a ticket for the ferry discovered that the app failed to accept payments, and couldn't even activate existing e-tickets. The problem, according to the ferry operator: "extreme surges of server activity."

But other apps are getting better. Groupon's (NASDAQ:GRPN) Breadcrumb POS, an iPad app merchants use to accept swiped card payments, added an offline mode last month that lets the app keep taking payments for an hour without a signal by storing payment details when it detects an outage. Shopkick added the ability a year ago for its app to store a record of a customer having visited a Shopkick-enabled store, even if the phone's signal couldn't penetrate the store's (or shopping mall's) walls.

And when LevelUp's app loses a phone signal while a new payment card is being linked to the app, the app gives an error message—but then explains what went wrong and gives the user a second chance to link the card with better reception.

For more:

- See this PaymentsSource story

Related stories:

Shopkick Adds In-App Buying From 30 Big Chains
Will Mobile Save Groupon?
Mobile/Contactless Payments Have Found Their Sweet Spot: Public Transit