The growth of APIs owes a lot of thanks to mobile. The reverse is also true, as APIs make possible much of what happens on mobile devices. Along the way, popular API segments have grown with mobile-specific offerings. Perhaps predictably, mobile payments is one of those areas of hyper growth. The most recent crop of mobile payment APIs focuses on specific platforms much of the time, either in addition to or instead of a more universal RESTful API.
As you can see there were just a few trailblazers in mobile payments. Most of those launched before 2011 have gone away. The oldest is ZayPay API and it was added to ProgrammableWeb in 2008. The company focused on payments with text messages, a popular trend outside of the US. Micropayments is still a focus and now the company has an Android SDK.
The big rise in mobile payment APIs started in 2011. Though only eight were added that year, that was almost twice the number added in all the years prior. Along with the growth came a switch in how each API was marketed to developers.
Mobile Payment APIs Focus on SDKs
Many, if not all, of the mobile payment APIs can be used on any platform. However, most focus on one or more platforms through an SDK. The above chart shows all the mobile payment APIs that officially support at least two of the most popular platforms, iOS, Android and Windows Phone.
|Payment API||Apple iOS||Android||Windows Phone|
From my research, it appears that only the SlidePay API directly supports all three of those platforms. SlidePay is a Square-esque adaptor for mobile devices to accept swiped cards in person or un-swiped over the Internet. The API, which is in private beta, can process payments, retrieve sales data and send receipts.
Almost all of the multi-platform APIs--11 of 13--support both Android and iOS. Just three overall support Windows phone, with each of those also supporting at least one other platform.
Android Versus iOS
Though in many cases iOS is seen as the leader in mobile, Android is at least keeping pace in mobile payment APIs. In fact, it may be edging out Apple's mobile operating system.
There are 19 mobile payment APIs that directly support Android, with iOS close behind at 16. However, when it comes to those exclusively focused on Android, there are seven, almost twice as many as iOS.
Regardless of platform, it's clear that mobile payments is still a hot place to be. There are currently 53 mobile payment APIs in the ProgrammableWeb directory. Which have you used?