Despite a patent claim on the technology behind it, Google Wallet has rolled out to all Nexus S 4G customers on Sprint's network. The app lets customers turn their smartphones into wallets and make a purchase with a tap of the phone. Sprint is the first carrier to offer the app.
Google Wallet is a free Android app that stores virtual versions of a customer's credit cards, offers and loyalty cards on the smartphone. At launch, Google Wallet supports Citi MasterCard credit cards and the Google Prepaid MasterCard, powered by First Data. Google plans to support additional cards. Some of the hundreds of thousands of participating retailers include American Eagle Outfitters, The Container Store, Macy's, Foot Locker and Subway.
"Google Wallet is limited to one phone on one carrier," said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner. "So it has rolled out, but it has hardly rolled out in a major way. It's going to take a fair amount of time before consumers become entirely comfortable with this process of mobile payments."
A First Step
Sprint Nexus S 4G customers will be prompted to download the latest version of Android software. Once that download is complete, the Google Wallet is available. The app requires users to set up a Google Wallet PIN that must be entered before making a purchase to prevent unauthorized access and payments.
"Nexus S 4G is the first to receive new versions of Android software, and today's upgrade puts the near-field communications, or NFC, chip in the phone to work so customers can have a secure virtual wallet on their phone," said Fared Adib, vice president of product at Sprint. "NFC capabilities on smartphones open the door to a new level of convenience and security."
Google first announced Google Wallet in May. Osama Bedier, vice president of payments at Google, said the company has been testing the service for a year.
"Shipping Google Wallet to Sprint is a crucial first step in creating a new way for people to use their phones to make shopping faster and easier," Bedier said. "The world is on the brink of the next big shift in payments, and today's announcement demonstrates that we're making real progress in attaining the vision we share with our partners for a new and innovative mobile payments platform. We believe this is just the beginning of a transformation that's soon to come."
Google's Mobile Muscle
After Google announced its innovation, eBay-owned PayPal filed suit against Google and two executives for allegedly stealing trade secrets that helped Google develop Google Wallet and push for a piece of the multibillion-dollar mobile-payments pie. Paypal's aggressive stance may hint at what is at stake.
"Over time we are going to see a lot of commerce generated as a result, but in the meantime we'll probably see NFC used for other things before it becomes ubiquitous for purchasing," Gartenberg said. "You do have to start somewhere and certainly Google is large enough to be able to influence this by integrating it as a core part of their experience."