Google Launches Google Wallet NFC Smartphone Payments

Google officially launched its Google Wallet service on Tuesday that turns NFC-enabled smartphones into virtual credit cards. The feature is currently limited to the Nexus S 4G phone on Sprint’s network and Citi MasterCard customers, but should be coming to more phones and credit cards soon.

Google WalletGoogle Wallet brings NFC transactions to Android

Google Wallet requires smartphones that include NFC, or Near Field Communication, chips so the phones can be held near compatible readers to process transactions. Google is also offering its own Google Prepaid virtual card for customers that don’t have a Citi MasterCard.

Nexus S 4G owners will get an over the air update to their phone that adds Google Wallet support.

“We appreciate Citi and MasterCard for being our launch partners,” said Google Vice President of Payments, Osama Bedier. “And today, Visa, Discover and American Express have made available their NFC specifications that could enable their cards to be added to future versions of Google Wallet.”

Since Google Wallet is limited to the Android-based Nexus S 4G and Citi MasterCard, and just to compatible NFC readers, it can’t be used very many places — at least not yet. As the number of supported smartphones and credit services grows, NFC payments in the U.S. may grow, and even find their way to the iPhone.