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Jack Dorsey Still Wants to Resurrect Square Wallet

He won't let go.

Scott Olson / Getty Images News
Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Jack Dorsey has long been known as a guy who loves consumer products. The IPO of Square, his payments company whose main customers are businesses and not consumers, hasn’t changed that.

In an interview with Re/code Thursday morning, Dorsey spoke glowingly about the now-defunct Square Wallet app that let people pay for stuff in stores by saying their name at the register. And he sounded like he still wants the company to bring it back from the dead in some form.

“That’s definitely an experience you’ll see in the future,” he said.

I asked him to clarify whether he was talking specifically about doing something similar again at Square, or that the industry would move in that direction more generally.

“I still want [the Square Wallet] experience, personally,” he said. “I think Square Cash shows a path.”

“I believe that the Square Wallet experience was the peak,” he added, after first talking up new tap-and-pay methods like Apple Pay.

Square Wallet was Dorsey’s dream to transform the way shoppers paid for stuff in stores, but it never took off because it wasn’t accepted everywhere and there wasn’t a good enough reason to use it instead of more traditional payment methods. The company spent several years and heavy resources trying to make it work, in large part because it was Dorsey’s baby. Square eventually killed it in 2014 and pivoted it into an order-ahead app, called Square Order, which it discontinued as well just 10 months later.

Now, Dorsey is saying that an existing product, Square Cash, could be a path toward a Square Wallet reincarnation of sorts. The Cash app started out by letting people transfer money to friends, through a debit card hookup. But Square also launched Square Cash for Business in March that allows business owners to accept debit card payments. A new version of the app, released earlier this month, makes it possible for businesses to now accept credit card payments through Square Cash, too.

The Square Cash payment method for businesses seemed targeted toward business owners without a physical location — such as wedding photographers or music instructors — more than retail shop owners. But Dorsey’s comments today imply that the scope of businesses targeted by Square Cash could change.

Square Wallet came up when I asked Dorsey about Square’s much-maligned payment processing deal with Starbucks, which is ending this year, but not before costing Square millions of dollars in losses. He said, in so many words, that Square gave Starbucks attractive financial terms in exchange for promoting Square Wallet.

“It was the wrong time,” he said. “It was too early.”

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