It was about as much of a secret as a certain footballer’s identity, but Google tonight officially unveiled its mobile payment service, Google Wallet.
Google Wallet is an attempt to do away with your actual wallet and replace it with an NFC-enabled phone which has been linked to you credit card. Of course this is only the first step on the road to throwing your wallet away as it will require retail partners, mobile phone manufacturers and networks to all get behind the system before it becomes ubiquitous. The Google Wallet app will be trialled initially in New York and San Francisco with a widespread roll out in the States hoped for sometime this summer. Initially the only phone which will be compatible with the system will be the Google Nexus S on the Sprint network, one of the launch partners. Two other launch partners are Mastercard and Citibank and you will need to have said credit card from said bank to be able to use the system. The tie-in with Mastercard of course means that Google Wallet will be compatible with the PayPass contactless payment system which is pretty widespread already. Alternatively, if you don’t have a Mastercard from Citibank, you will be able to get a Google Prepaid Card which can have funds transferred to it from any card or bank.
Also announced at the press conference in New York was Google Offers, which is Google’s attempt at a GroupOn-type service, which will connect with Google Wallet. Every morning users will receive an “offer of the day” in their inbox and customers will also be able to seek out other offers too. Tying in with Google Wallet will allow people to store loyalty cards in their virtual wallet and receive location-based offers and with just a tap of their phone users will be able to take advantage of special offers. This however is just the beginning from Google and as more partners get on board the possibilities are huge, from having your ID, tickets, boarding passes and even keys stored on your phone. Security will obviously be of prime concern for users and Google says it has three levels of security built into the system including a PIN and encrypted information. Google Wallet stores your encrypted payment card credentials on a computer chip on your phone called the Secure Element – which sounds like something from a science fiction movie.
Of course all this is US-only for the moment, but with mobile carriers on this side of the Atlantic already supporting contactless payment - albeit on a limited basis - and with Google saying it is looking into international roll out of Google Wallet, hopefully we will see this system coming sooner rather than later. For now though here’s a video from the retail partners who are surprisingly enthusiastic about the system.