Google Launches Wallet NFC Payment System for Android

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Google announced Thursday Google Wallet, a near field communications (NFC) payment system that will turn an Android device into a mobile payment system. Wallet is being introduced in San Francisco and New York City as test markets, and it was developed with Citibank, Mastercard, Sprint and First Data.

Wallet will allow users to pay for their transactions using their Android device through the Google Wallet app. Such payment solutions have been a hot topic for the last couple of years as NFC implementations have begun rolling out outside the U.S., especially in Asia. Handset makers, banks, and telecoms see the use of NFC solutions as money making operations, and both Apple and Google have been rumored to be developing NFC payment systems for their smartphone platforms.

Google’s announcement Thursday means that the Android maker is first to market, though with a limited test run, it’s far from a fully implemented system. In addition, NFC payment solutions not only require secure software, they also require both smartphone hardware and merchant hardware to be able to conduct the transactions.

To that end, Wallet is being rolled out as a hook into Mastercard’s existing PayPass network. Mastercard claims 124,000 PayPass-enabled merchants nationally and more than 311,000 globally, though it’s not yet clear how many of those merchants have the NFC gear needed to make use of Wallet.

In addition, the only Android device capable of making use of Google Wallet is the Nexus S 4G, an Android device for Sprint’s network. T-Mobile also has a Nexus S, but that version of the device was not included in today’s announcement, which focused on Sprint.

Google Wallet is not, however, intended to be limited to Citibank and Sprint. In its announcement, the company said, “Google Wallet will work best if it’s an open commerce ecosystem so you will be able to carry all the credit cards, offers, loyalty and gift cards you choose—and eventually much more. To this end, Google Wallet will make it possible to integrate numerous types of partners, and Google, Citi, MasterCard, First Data and Sprint invite the banking community, mobile carriers, handset manufacturers, merchants and others to work with Google Wallet.”

Google Wallet

Google Wallet

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Google offering its Wallet, an service that will contain all your personal info; track all of your purchases, which tracking will be sent to advertiser; have your payment accounts; and which may be required to be open-sourced under the GPL, not that Google pays any heed to the GPL.  What could go wrong?

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

I wonder how long it will be until I can (theoretically) buy something at an Apple retail store with my Android phone.


I wonder how long it will be until I can (theoretically) buy something at an Apple retail store with my Android phone.

About a day longer than the malware affecting your android phone has compromised sensitive and personal data enabling someone else to buy something at an Apple retail store!!

Bryan Chaffin

I think that’s an interesting question, Brad, though I share Nemo’s concern over how Google might be planning to leverage my purchasing information.  Purchases is one area where Google doesn’t yet have a big footprint in tracking out activity, and Wallet could change that.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Google has a $100M footprint (2010) with the Android Marketplace. Google Checkout isn’t PayPal in scale, but it is a very capable online payment system. PayPal probably comes close to a purchasing system that has rich purchase data for many purchases, rather than just totals and taxes. Google’s VP in charge of this thing comes from eBay and PayPal.

There is still plenty of reason for merchants to own the invoice, with Google Wallet being an improvement on payment mechanism. I suspect that Amazon will continue to know way more about my purchasing than Google ever will.

Lee Dronick

See today’s Joy of Tech comic

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