NFC technology allows devices enabled with the hardware to communicate with each other over short ranges. Google Wallet allows users to save things like credit card information into the software and then use their smartphones, rather than plastic cards or physical cash, to make transactions at retail stores with special terminals. With NFC tech enabled, users can just tap their smartphones to the terminals to instantly transfer payment information to the retailer, completing the transaction, saving receipts and doing other handy things without having to think about it.
But NFC tech isn’t available in every device because it requires a special radio transceiver that’s not found in every Android phone. Google has been expanding NFC through software, though. Its Google Wallet service was announced last year, and NFC tech is baked into the latest version of its mobile operating system, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.
Google is working to bring Wallet to even more customers, FMC reports. Google’s Vice President of Google Wallet and Payments, Osama Bedier, said during a talk at the conference that the company is still actively talking with all kinds of businesses, from carriers to banks and retailers, to expand the reach of Wallet and make it an even more viable service. Already, Google Wallet is used by 22 of the largest retailers in the U.S., and there are more than 300,000 NFC-capable terminals in stores across the country with which Google Wallet can interact. And NFC terminals are spreading fast, Bedier said.
But while Sprint is adding Google Wallet capabilities to more devices, supplementing Samsung’s Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus that already include it, other carriers are not as hot on the service. Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have teamed-up to offer their own mobile payment platform called Isis, and when Verizon announced it would be carrying the Galaxy Nexus, it also said it would be leaving off the Google Wallet software. Isis counts MasterCard, Discover, Visa and American Express among its partners as well.
Either way, NFC technology is spreading quickly through the Android ecosystem and opening up a whole new degree of functionality to more and more users. Google seems to be backing the technology and the idea of mobile payments pretty whole-heartedly, and Android users are going to be seeing the technology making its way into their lives more and more in 2012.