Google has officially revealed Google Wallet, turning your Android device into a digital carryall for the next iteration of mobile payments. With support from MasterCard, Visa and American Express, Google’s got the backing of the financial industry, teaming it with ready technology that the company’s been testing for several months. With Google Wallet you can tap your phone at supporting Near Field Communications (NFC) registers, and for your safety you can add a PIN to the Wallet app, requiring a code to enter for each use. It’s a way to replace the credit cards you carry in your real wallet, and it makes transactions even easier and more centralized around your smartphone.
As exciting as Google Wallet sounds, it isn’t available for everyone at launch. The technology and its retail partners are still limited. If you have a Nexus S 4G Android phone, which already includes the needed NFC chip, you’re good to go, as long as you’re a Sprint customer. Participating retailers include American Eagle, Macy’s, Foot Locker and Subway, amongst hundreds of others.
Building an NFC empire
Google’s being rather preemptive with its Wallet launch, though NFC technology isn’t anything new. The Android platform owner is building an infrastructure around NFC, hoping to own this segment and incorporate it into its larger ecosystem, which encompasses a long line of applications to nurture its web-based efforts across Chrome, Android and even competitors’ platforms. Google already plans to incorporate coupons and discounts directly into the Wallet app, incorporating some features from its other Android apps, and make use of recent acquisitions for daily deal aggregators as well.
The Wallet release comes ahead of the next iPhone 5 launch, expected sometime this fall and rumored to include NFC capabilities. That means Google will need to rapidly increase the number of devices that can run its Wallet app. While NFC payments have been launched by others, it’s Google’s ability to draw in partner support and leverage an existing system that will help it take this product to market and build an early foundation that’s likely to pay off quite well in the future.