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Super Apps or Smart Wallets?

Published: May 2, 2022
Writer at Plat.AI
Writer: Lilit Melkonyan
Editor at Plat.AI
Editor: Ani Mosinyan
Reviewer at Plat.AI
Reviewer: Alek Kotolyan

According to Statista, worldwide smartphone users currently make up 6.648 billion or 83.72% of the world’s population. eMarketer reports that 1.31 billion people are forecast to use a mobile payment system to process cashless transactions by 2023. So, it’s no wonder that smart wallets and super apps are on the rise. 

A digital smart wallet virtually stores credit, debit, ID, and gift cards so you can make purchases through a device without using a physical card. You can use a mobile wallet, a type of digital wallet, through an app on your mobile smart device. Smart wallets enable consumers to process transactions instantly and without any difficulty. 

A super app is a single digital platform for a wide range of virtual products and services. Instead of managing dozens of different apps, consumers can enjoy a more convenient use of this one-stop platform for multiple tasks.

Mobile Wallet vs. Digital Wallet 


Mobile wallets are often called digital wallets. However, they’re implemented differently. Both store payment information, but you don’t necessarily need to use a digital wallet on a mobile device.

For example, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Pay are mobile wallets that you can install on a handheld or wearable device. For instance, a regular PayPal account is a digital wallet. However, it’s viewed as a mobile wallet when it functions in conjunction with mobile payment services and mobile devices.

Digital wallets have turned into the world’s top payment method for e-commerce and point-of-sale (POS) transactions, according to WorldPay’s 2021 Global Payments Report. Moreover, they’re projected to make up over one-half of e-commerce payments and one-third of POS transactions by 2024.

Increasingly, smart wallets are becoming more convenient. Specifically, digital wallet providers are evolving from swift and frictionless payments to offering a holistic digital experience. So, it’s no surprise that ordering products or services over the Internet and paying via voice command on a mobile banking application is on the rise. 

Under the European Digital Identity Wallet initiative, countries will offer digital wallets to citizens and businesses. These wallets can link national digital identities with other documents, such as driving licenses, diplomas, and bank accounts.

A mobile wallet is a digitized version of a physical wallet that you can install on your smartphone. This type of digital wallet or e-wallet virtually stores financial cards and other documents, such as bank information, a driver’s license, a Social Security card, loyalty cards, health insurance cards, hotel key cards, and bus or train tickets.

Here are the basic features and benefits mobile wallets offer:

  • Security and safety through many layers of encryption. Many mobile wallets feature encrypted keys. 
  • Useful for retail businesses processing high transaction volumes each day as mobile wallets reduce wait and payment times.
  • A convenient way to make in-store payments. 

Many smartphones are designed with built-in mobile wallets. For example, iPhones come with Apple Pay and Samsung with the Samsung Pay app. However, third-party mobile wallets are gaining more traction, such as PayPal, Google Pay, and Venmo.

According to Christine Wagner from FIS, an American multinational fintech corporation, checkout at POS using mobile wallets rose by 60% in 2021. Moreover, eMarketer reports that in-store mobile payment app usage had 29% year-over-year (YoY) growth in 2020. In addition, it’s anticipated that there will be about 6.5 million new mobile wallet users annually from 2021 to 2025.

How a Mobile Wallet Works

First, you need to download the mobile app you’ve chosen into your smartphone or other compatible devices. Next, load the card information you want to store. Then, when making a purchase, you can open your app and choose the card you want to use at the checkout screen. Finally, tap your smartphone on the merchant’s digital payment-enabled terminal when checking out. 

Mobile wallets come with a Near-Field Communication (NFC) chip that enables you to make contactless payments. Specifically, this technology uses radio frequencies to communicate between devices.

When you install the app and input your payment information, the wallet stores this data by linking the card to a unique number, key, QR code, fingerprint, or facial recognition.

NFC technology communicates the payment information to the merchant’s point-of-service (POS) terminal. The information transfer occurs when you wave or hold an NFC-enabled mobile device over the store’s NFC reader.

Here, it’s important to talk about point-of-sale software (SofPOS). This software allows merchants to accept payments from contactless cards or wallets like Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay.

SoftPOS doesn’t require the user to install additional hardware such as point-of-sale (POS) terminals or mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) to accept payments on a smartphone or another NFC-enabled device. 

mPOS is a smartphone, tablet, or dedicated wireless device that functions as a cash register or electronic POS terminal. For example, MasterCard calls softPOS “Tap on Phone,” and Visa calls it “Tap to Phone.”

Super Apps

In some parts of the world, digital wallets have evolved into so-called “super applications” that deliver more than money management. You can use them for online messaging, social media, restaurant bookings, taxi services, food delivery, marketplaces (e.g., eBay), and even gaming. For example, WeChat and Alipay in China. 

What is a super app? A super app (super-app or superapp) is a mobile or web application that delivers both payment and financial transaction processing. Think of this smart app as an all-encompassing online platform providing a broad set of services to its users. 

Super applications started as single-purpose applications. Then, their services expanded to include other lifestyle or financial-based services. For example, the South Korean super app Kakao Talk began as a messaging app. Now, it offers gaming, transportation, and banking features. 

Here is a list of super apps: the more well-known ones like WeChat and Alipay, the less well-known Gojek and Grab in Southeast Asia, Paytm in India, M-Pesa in Africa, and Careem in the Middle East.

Benefits of a super app include: 

  • The convenience of enjoying multiple services from one portal. 
  • Frictionless customer experience. It consolidates all the features and services you need in one place. There is no need to download different apps for every transaction or open a new online account.
  • Time and cost-effectiveness for merchants and third parties in terms of customer acquisition.

Super Apps vs. Smart Wallets

The mobile wallet space represents one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. As CB Insights reports, it’s currently worth nearly $1 trillion and is projected to reach more than $7 trillion by 2027.

On the other hand, there’s growing competition in the super app space as consumers increasingly choose to use all-encompassing apps. They want the simplicity and convenience that super apps offer. For example, such an evolution in consumer preferences is driving the shift from a mobile wallet toward a super app in the West. 

The Interest in Smart Wallets

The convenience of digital transactions makes mobile payments worldwide more widespread. Though digital wallets have significantly benefited from the rise in the e-commerce space, the introduction of QR codes made in-store payments in Asia even more popular. 

Banks are also adopting this trend to compete with digital wallets. On a side note, using technology and consumer data to solve consumers’ timely pain points or create delightful experiences is known as “lifestyle banking.”

“Lifestyle banking” allows consumers to bank, invest, book trip and restaurant services, and earn loyalty points, such as cashback, bonuses, and air miles. 

Apps Morphing Into Super Applications 

As of November 2021, about 67% of consumers in the United States were interested in integrating multiple digital experiences in one super app.

Of course, digital wallets make financial services more accessible, relevant, valuable, and affordable to consumers. However, digital wallets must be trustworthy if they want to manage finances and lifestyles in a single ecosystem, thus achieving “super app” status. 

The more smart applications deliver trust, convenience, and security, the more consumers will adopt them. Their operation is based on the incorporation of digital identity solutions. These effectively protect against risk and fraud while providing a quality customer experience.

Specifically, digital wallet issues and stores credentials independently without sharing data across multiple apps. As for a super app, it shares an identity across an entire ecosystem of services. While this delivers increased convenience, the app must protect user data exceptionally well. 

Let’s look at some examples: 

  • WeChat was launched as a messaging app. Then, it added gaming, shopping, and payments to its portfolio so it could keep users in its ecosystem.
  • WhatsApp is following the steps of WeChat and adding payments to its service in Brazil and India and in cooperation with Nedbank in South Africa.
  • Uber branched out from ride-sharing to delivering food and groceries. Spotify can also be viewed as a super app in the audio realm. However, these consumer apps don’t offer rich features yet as the super app giants in Asia and other international markets.

The success of Chinese applications is associated with the high volumes of data they use to deliver services relevant to specific users. Affordability also plays a vital role in this regard.

That’s where predictive analytics software comes into play by allowing the user to build, deploy, and maintain real-time decision-making with available data. Super applications use large amounts of data to engage with users and offer customized products. With predictive analytics, super app developers analyze this data to design services for their customers. 

According to CB Insights, developing e-wallets is rapidly becoming the basis for super applications. The trend is anticipated to continue, especially in Asia, Europe, and the United States. Namely, in Europe and the United States, some fintech companies are working on super-app development. For example, French startup Lydia and PayPal in the U.S. are two examples. 

Sum Up

Digital wallets, including mobile wallets, are smart wallets. A digital wallet allows you to store your credit and debit card information virtually and then use it from your device. A mobile wallet, a type of digital wallet, allows you to access that information through an app on a mobile device.

Digital wallets are increasingly growing into super applications. Super apps enable consumers to access an overwhelming choice of products and services in a single place, thus improving the digital customer experience.

Lilit Melkonyan

Lilit Melkonyan

Content WriterLilit Melkonyan is a Content Writer with a background in Philology. Lilit loves Research and Analysis and has covered various topics such as Science and Technology, eCommerce, Marketing, and Finance.

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