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PayPal unveils new mobile wallet service at SXSW 2012

by Phil Hornshaw

We heard just yesterday that PayPal was planning to roll out a mobile payment system that would allow users to make use of the online payment system no matter where they were making purchases. Turns out that rumor was true, although PayPal’s ambitions seem to go beyond just a mobile payment system akin to Google Wallet.

PayPal unveiled the plan at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, this week, and also posted a fairly detailed blog about what would be included in the service. PayPal notes many of the features that were rumored to be coming will be included in the service, like the ability to use PayPal at brick-and-mortar stores rather than just online ones, and a 5- to 7-day grace period that will allow for buyer’s remorse on just about any product.

But the blog post notes that PayPal’s wallet service won’t be just mobile, it’ll be digital. What that means isn’t exactly clear, but it seems to suggest that while there will be a mobile component to the service, users can expect to make use of PayPal wallet in a number of different ways and from different devices. The PayPal blog notes the ability to set funds aside so they can’t be spent when you’re saving for travel, for example, and that the wallet service will search for local deals automatically to make sure you’re not spending more than you need to. The idea is that your money is all digital – it’s not just trading a card you swipe at the register for tapping a phone to a console instead.

Those features suggest a cross-device service that will let you set up more detailed functionality on, say, your PC, then take PayPal in the world with you and interact with your account and make changes on the fly on your mobile device. PayPal has a successful iPhone app, and the ability to move money, pay for things in installments and create lists of things to buy later on the fly seems perfectly suited to the app space.

PayPal says it’ll start rolling out wallet features starting in May. The ideas the company has planned are pretty exciting, but it still hasn’t released much in the way of details as to how many of these ideas will work. What PayPal is explaining sounds perfectly designed for the iPhone and iPad space, but just how the company will attack turning your money digital and making sure you have access to it is yet to be seen.