PayPal revamps apps, adds new payment tools; reviews mixed

|By:, SA News Editor

A major update to PayPal's (EBAY) popular Android/iOS apps adds a slew of new features.

Among them: the ability to quickly place an order from a store's menu while waiting in line, and to view and pay a restaurant bill before a check arrives; a Shop tab that highlights nearby stores that accept PayPal, and allows users to "check in" and open tabs at them; offers from local businesses; and the ability to apply for Bill Me Later financing for purchases made through the app.

PayPal exec Hill Ferguson: "That’s the thing that matters the most to [users]: if you can replace all the utility that a physical wallet has in the cloud … that’s the goal for us."

"Powerful but baffling" is how The Verge's Casey Newton describes the new app. While granting it may be "the most fully featured payment app to date," he also criticizes UI inconsistencies and a confusing navigation bar.

Newton: "Until the developers who are building digital wallets can make them simpler than physical ones, most of us will keep buying our smoothies the old-fashioned way."

ReadWrite's Owen Thomas is more positive, arguing the app's offline payment tools have the potential to reinvent how PayPal is seen and used. "The point of the app is no longer to complete payment for an eBay auction on the go: It's to get you to walk into a store."

PayPal is already a mobile payments giant: it expects to handle $20B in mobile transactions this year, up from $14B last year. But it faces offline payments competition from Square, Groupon, and others.

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