Apple has tripled the number of stores accepting Pay in 5 months

Apple Pay is accepted by 700,000 retailer locations in the U.S., and the iPhone-embedded payment service now loads cards from 2,500 card issuing banks, CEO Tim Cook revealed at the kick off of Apple’s Spring Forward Event on Monday.

That’s pretty astonishing growth considering Apple was accepted at 220,000 retailers at its launch in October, meaning retail chains and independent businesses have been either upgrading their checkout gear to accept the near-field communications (NFC) taps used by Apple’s iPhone contactless payment technology or they’ve turned on NFC capabilities in their existing terminals.

A growing list of retailers accept Apple Pay, Apple revealed at its Spring Forward event.

A growing list of retailers accept Apple Pay, Apple revealed at its Spring Forward event.

At the event, Cook flashed a slide on screen that showed many of the retail chains newly on board with Apple Pay. There were carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile, airlines and hotels JetBlue and Marriott and many, many new stores.

The number of partner banks quintupled from the 500 deals Apple had in place at launch, which is significant because it means consumers don’t have to apply for specific debit or credit cards to use Apple Pay. Consumers can load any card — or at least the vast majority of cards — they already have in their billfolds into the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Not having the backing of the banks has been a hindrance to other mobile wallets like Google Wallet and Isis/Softcard at launch, but Apple recently claimed that more than 90 percent of all credit and debit transactions could technically be supported on Apple Pay.

Apple is clearly having success embedding its service into retail stores, but it gave an update on its effort to embed itself into vehicles. CarPlay now has the backing of all of the world’s major automakers. Though we have yet to see a CarPlay-enabled vehicle, this likely means that CarPlay will eventually become an option in most newer cars with fancy infotainment systems.

Amazon and Sprint may pick over RadioShack’s remains

After getting suspended from the New York Stock Exchange, RadioShack is probably headed for bankruptcy, but it looks to have a couple of potential buyers lined up to take over its retail stores. Both Amazon and Sprint are weighing bids for some of RadioShack’s 4,000 U.S. locations, according to two separate reports from Bloomberg.

[company]Sprint[/company], which Bloomberg says is interested in 1,300 to 2,000 stores, might mainly be interested in [company]RadioShack[/company] for defensive reasons since RadioShack is one of its big reseller partners. The electronics chain has not only long sold Sprint phones, it also carries its prepaid Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile brands. [company]Amazon[/company], however, would be tackling some entirely new: brick-and-mortar retail.

Amazon, too, is only interested in some of Radio Shack’s locations, Bloomberg reported, but those stores could serve as showcases for its increasing number of mobile devices, living room gadgets and services. Amazon could also use the stores as physical pick-up and drop-off locations for customers, as well as provide immediate face-to-face tech support the way Apple does in its Genius Bars.

Samsung shuts down its flagship retail store in London

If you’re doing any last-minute Christmas shopping for a gadget lover in the U.K., you’re not doing it at Samsung’s retail flagship Experience Store in East London. The Verge reported that Samsung has shut down its Westfield Stratford store, one of two big showcase venues in London intended as Samsung’s answer to the Apple Store.

Samsung is still running its Experience Store in the more centrally located West End, and in a statement to the Verge the company said it is “fully committed” to running its remaining nine stores in the U.K.

The closure comes a year after Samsung announced plans to make a big retail push throughout Europe with partner Carphone Warehouse. But since then Samsung has posted a few very disappointing quarters in smartphone sales. As my colleague KIf Leswing points out, Samsung’s biggest challenge is building more low-end smartphones to target the emerging markets. Meanwhile these Experience stores are more aimed at high-end devices sales.


Two can play at that game, Walmart: Target may have an MVNO in the works

Retailer Target(s tgt) could soon counter Walmart’s long-running Family Mobile service(s wmt) with a virtual cellular service of its own. According to Droid Life, this weekend Target plans to launch a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) named BrightSpot using T-Mobile’s(s tmus) voice and data networks.

BrightSpot would sell SIM cards and phones in Target stores and would offer unlimited voice and text plans for $35 a month with data plans costing extra, according to Droid Life’s unnamed sources. What makes BrightSpot special to Target? Well, apparently customer loyalty is linked to in-store rewards: For ever six months you’re a BrightSpot customer you’ll get a $25 Target gift card.

Clearwire targets 31 cities for LTE as WiMAX takes a beating

Clearwire said today it would roll out LTE in 31 markets in the first half 2013, starting with New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle. Though it didn’t detail any more launch cities, it’s not too hard to guess them.