Can Google Plex win over banks and consumers?

It’s only a matter of days since I wrote about the relaunch of Google Pay. Now I turn my attention to Google Plex. With a beady eye on the way traditional banks are lagging in the mobile banking stakes, it has come up with a solution that enables the old boys to keep pace with the fintech challengers, or at least that is what it appears to promise.

Ron Shevlin quotes some observations from the Snark Tank, such as this summary of the Google Plex pitch: “You’re lagging in technology. Your current vendors are years behind. Consumers think you’re irrelevant. We’re hip, we’re cool, we have all the latest technologies, and boy have we’ve got data! Come partner with us on our new checking account!”

And to some extent the potential customers are buying it. Shevlin says “three big banks, four community banks, two credit unions, and two digital banks” have announced that they have formed partnerships with Google to use the Google Plex checking account tech in 2021.

Now let’s go back to Google Pay. Google Plex will be integrated into the app, which now has three new components.

First, it has a P2P and retail payments component that essentially mimics the Venmo model. This will allow users to, “Set up group payments, put multiple people in a chat and let them send and request money from each other. It will also track who has and hasn’t paid their share and let you tap a button to pester them,” according to The Verge.

Users can also use tap-to-pay, which is pretty old hat now, except that Google has added two new features – ‘Get gas’ and ‘Order food’. Apparently the latter refers to a food ordering system that will work with more than 100,000 restaurants. And consumers will be able to use the ‘get gas’ tab to pay for gas and parking via the app in 30,000 locations.

The ‘Explore’ feature will allow Google Pay app users to browse aggregated merchant offers, and they can receive merchant offers based on their spending activity. It sounds a little like Google ads and Facebook advertising all over again.

There’s also an ‘Insights’ tab which is described by Shevlin as “Google’s version of a personal financial management (PFM) tool,” similar to those available on other digital banking platforms.

Why is Google likely to win over banks to using Google Plex: It’s quite simple: Google has access to more data than any bank; Goggle has more merchant relationships, and it has more tech resources.

Of course, while the traditional banks might see Google’s offer as the fast and easy way to catch up with digital challengers, there is one critical factor to consider: will the consumer want a Google checking account?

Google spanks naughty app developers

If you have an app on the Google Play Store, and that app provides for in-app purchases, watch out, because the Big G is coming after you.

Currently, under Google’s rules, if you provide in-app purchases, you must use the Google Play Store’s billing services, which basically means that Google keeps around 30% of your revenue.

This is nothing new. It has always been the case. However, a number of developers have decided to ignore this rule and Google is not pleased. So, it plans to reinforce it. Apple is taking similar measures, so the news for developers is not good.

In response, a coalition of app publishers, such as Spotify, Epic Games and Basecamp, “have announced the creation of the “Coalition for App Fairness,” which hopes to more fair arrangements between app stores and publishers,” Johan Moreno reports. The new organization formalises efforts the companies already have underway that focus on either forcing app store providers to change their policies, or ultimately forcing the app stores into regulation. You can find out more on the coalition’s website, where the group details its key issues, including anti-competitive practices, such as the app stores’ 30% commission structure, and the inability to distribute software to billions of Apple devices through any other means but the App Store. The group sees this as an affront to personal freedom.

They just happen to be some of the developers that have been thwarting Google’s fee rule, according to Bloomberg. They have managed to do this, “by mandating that users sign up for services (and pay) through the app’s website, which avoids the need for in-app purchases.”

The problem for Google is Android’s open nature. It allows users to download third-party apps, whereas Apple has a closed app ecosystem. As Moreno says, “on some Android devices, there may be a third-party app store, operating completely without the guidance of Google.”

App developers may continue to circumvent Google by creating and popularising, “a third-party app marketplace that can be loaded onto Android that may provide more fair terms for developers.”