At a special New York press event, Google has announced two new products revolving around mobile payments, Google Wallet and Google Offers. Just like previous Google product announcements, they went all out to demonstrate them both on stage and made it look very exciting indeed.
The concept of mobile payments via NFC is one that has been around for quite sometime - you can read all about it here – but 2011 really seems to be the year when it’ll hit the mainstream here in the west. Google intend to be one of the first on the scene, and has introduced Google Wallet.
It’s an open payment system which works as one would expect, you save a credit card to the Wallet app, tap it at the point-of-sale and pay for your goods. It works in conjunction with Google Offers, which lets stores promote offers and loyalty programs to Google Wallet users, all of which can be saved to the Wallet for later use.
Interestingly, these offers can take the form of in-store promotions, NFC-tags on posters and even online coupons where a click of a button sends the offer to your Wallet over-the-air. Many will also be linked to the phone’s location, requiring GPS. During the demonstration, the app looked polished and the process seamless, while initial setup was simple and speedy too.
For NFC mobile payments to work, they need to have the support of banks, stores and networks. Mastercard and CitiBank are the first two onboard and will link the Wallet to their PayPass system already used at some 300,000 locations around the world. With every Google Wallet app, users will find a Google prepaid card inside ready to accept transfers from a variety of cards too.
On the security front, the card number will never be displayed, there are several layers of password protection and the NFC chip in phones won’t operate when the display is off.
It all looks and sounds great, but as with the vast majority of new Google products, it’s set for trial only in US at the moment; therefore the stores and networks – only Sprint was mentioned – are US-specific. The only phone which can be used with Google Wallet is the Nexus S 4G, an exclusive Sprint device, although this will change as the service grows. Google Wallet’s trials are taking place right now, and the full pilot operation begins this summer in New York and San Francisco.
So, as far as the UK stands, not much has changed with Google’s announcement (but see Orange, Barclaycard and Samsung’s Quick Pay initiative for the latest UK NFC advances) , but provided it takes off over the coming six months there’s no reason not to expect it to launch here. As far as the broader NFC mobile payment space is concerned, it’s an important step in turning it into a widely used, mainstream technology.