The technology changes have been a burden for merchants. "Merchants are really frustrated with all these mobile payments," Litan said. "The systems are opaque and banks are keeping information close to the vest."
What's apparent with Samsung Pay and other mobile payments is that the rate of adoption is not only about new technologies, but also business partnerships. So far, Apple has excelled in creating partnerships with credit card companies and major banks, as well as many large retailers. Apple and its bank, card and retail partners have aired a steady stream of TV ads and other promotions to show the ease of using Apple Pay with NFC for quick in-store payments.
"The path to mobile payments is not only in the technology, but how many partnerships you can form with financial institutions and retailers willing to accept your particular solution," said analyst Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates. "If Samsung can build an ecosystem that provides for its technology, then it can be a player. Apple, almost by default, will have such an ecosystem. Everyone seems to want to support whatever Apple does, because of its weight in the marketplace. We'll have to see if Samsung can bring the same weight with its payment technology."
Various things could happen to help Samsung with Samsung Pay. If, for example, Samsung decides to license the LoopPay magnetic transmission technology to other device makers -- even Apple and Google -- then Samsung could reap benefits. On the other hand, if Samsung Pay turns out to be highly successful, both Apple Pay and Google Wallet could ultimately be "marginalized," Sloan said.
While that scenario may seem far-fetched to many, Samsung Pay has opened a lot of eyes.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.