Google Wallet Goes Live, But You Probably Won’t Be Able to Use It Yet


As rumored, Google just announced that it is officially launching its cell phone-based mobile payment solution Google Wallet today. After introducing the service in May and launching a limited trial at the time, Google today launched it nationwide, in partnership with Citi, MasterCard, Sprint and First Data. For now, however, you won’t be able to just swipe your phone past one of the many compatible PayPass payment terminals unless you use Google’s flagship Nexus S phone on Sprint’s network. Given these limitations, today’s “launch” is really more of an expanded field trial than anything else.

MasterCard and Sprint Only

For now, restricting Google Wallet to one credit card company, phone and carrier means that most of us won’t be able to use it anytime soon. Google hopes that American Express, Visa and Discover will also come on board soon. These three companies made their near-field communication (NFC) specifications available today. These, says Google, “could enable their cards to be added to future versions of Google Wallet.” It’s not clear if these companies are really interested in partnering with Google though (Google says it’s “working” with them in its headline, but the actual announcement isn’t very clear about this point).

Do Mainstream Users Care?

As I have argued in the past, I’m not sure the market in the U.S. is really ready for NFC-enabled payment solutions yet. Those PayPass terminals Google is using, after all, are mostly sitting unused today, as consumers and card issuers haven’t even adopted NFC-enabled credit cards yet. For most users, paying by phone is also more of a hassle than just swiping a credit card.

I’m still standing by my conclusion from back in May: “Using an NFC-enabled electronic wallet simply doesn’t offer enough benefits right now, isn’t significantly more convenient than just using a credit card and depends on phones that aren’t available yet (and that can easily run out of battery).”

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Mobile Wallets: Google Got There First, But Apple’s Users Want Them More


Google announced it’s NFC-powered Google Wallet for Android smartphones last month and started a limited beta test in a few select cities, but new data from Retrevo shows that about 80% of all potential cell phone buyers either don’t know what a mobile wallet is (26%) or simply aren’t interested in them (53%). When it comes to those who are actually interested in NFC compatibility on their phones, though, current iPhone owners are significantly more interested in getting access to this technology (40%) than current Android users (24%). While Google was first to market with its product, it may not have much of an early mover advantage with its users.


As I noted when Google first announced its wallet in May, NFC-based mobile payment systems aren’t new and have been tested for years now. They have never been successful, though. I suspect that this is at least partly due to the fact that there is nothing especially inconvenient about using credit or debit cards today for most consumers. On Retrevo’s study, men were generally more likely to want to use mobile wallets and younger users (18-35) were far more likely to be interested in the technology than those over 50.


Retrevo’s data also shows that quote a few potential mobile wallet customers are worried about security. While 61% of iPhone users would trust Apple to keep their data secure, neither Google nor the credit card companies and mobile carriers are trusted by more than 50% of potential users.


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Google Wallet: Color Me Skeptical


Google Wallet, which the Mountain View-based search giant introduced earlier today, wants to change the way you pay for products and services, but I’m not sure it will. Google’s contactless near field communication (NFC) payment system currently only works with one phone and only in San Francisco and New York, but the company plans to roll it out wider over the next few months. While I do like the technology behind this system, though, I can’t help but wonder if Google and its partners aren’t just looking for a solution to a nonexistent problem here.


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