Rumours are spreading that Google is planning to launch its Google Wallet wireless payment system in the UK, just in time for the 2012 Olympics. Introduced back in May, Google Wallet remains a US-only service, however the French newspaper Les Echos says Google is opening up its Wallet for a trial in London.
The trial is said to take place during the first quarter of the year, ready to go live in the capital for the Olympic Games at the end of July. A number of banks, retailers and companies are talking to Google, with the report specifically mentioning Ingenico by name. This is an important point, as Ingenico sells retail payment terminals and already dabbles in mobile payment solutions, although only from the merchant’s side.
Google Wallet is one of the highest profile attempts to introduce NFC-based wireless payments into the West, although the UK already has several network-led trials for rival services, including a collaboration between O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone. Google’s Wallet is exclusive to the Sprint network in the USA, so it’ll be interesting to see which network (or potentially, networks) they partner with should this rumour pan out.
Then there’s the question of compatible phones. Google Wallet launched on the 4G Galaxy Nexus S, which isn’t available here in the UK, however a custom ROM has proved that Google Wallet can operate on the new Galaxy Nexus phone too, although once again the test mule was a 4G device.
As exciting as it sounds for Google Wallet to hit the UK in the next few months, it’s the phone compatibility issue that sounds most problematic. Are there enough Galaxy Nexus’s out there to hold a proper trial, and to make it worthwhile during the Olympics? Or will Google open the service up to other manufacturers such as Nokia, who has several NFC-ready phones in their range? We’ll have to wait until Google officially speaks out for the answers.