Google Wallet Gets Launched, Replaces Credit Cards

After months of previews, Google finally launches the long awaited mobile payment system called Google Wallet, while also announcing partnerships with Visa, Amex and Discover.

In time, smartphones got to replace photo and video cameras, GPS devices, mp3-players, bulky phonebooks and now, with the help of Google, they also become a substitute for your wallet. The Google Wallet app was first showcased on May 26, 2011, but the public launch took place only yesterday. In all these months, Google established partnerships with Mastercard, Citi and Sprint. Now that the app is finally available, the company also announced collaborations with Amex, Discover and Visa.

At the moment, Google Wallet is only available on Nexus S 4G, as this is the only Android-based smartphone with both hardware and software support for NFC (Near Field Communication). The good news is that  Nexus S owners do not have to search for the app, as it will be automatically pushed to their devices through a software update. Hopefully, more smartphone manufacturers will join the trend in the future, so that Google Wallet becomes widely available. In what concerns the smartphones that run on other operating systems than Android, Google VP of Commerce Stephanie Tilenius declared: “In terms of iPhone, RIM, Microsoft — we will partner with everyone.” The limitation goes even further, as the app can only be used by customers of Sprint Nextel.

The number of retailers that accept this mobile payment system is not great, either. Google Wallet can be used at the following merchants, with more to be added soon, hopefully:

  • American Eagle Outfitters
  • Bloomingdales
  • Foot Locker
  • Jamba Juice
  • Macy’s
  • RadioShack
  • Subway
  • The Container Store
  • Toys “R” Us
  • Walgreens

Since Citi and MasterCard were the only partners of Google until recently, only Mastercards issued by this bank could be used with this app. The Google Prepaid Card, which can be loaded using any credit card, reduces some of the limitations. Besides that, the partnership with Visa should increase the options, too.

In case there will not be many other NFC-enabled smartphones, Google prepared a back-up plan. It will provide NFC stickers that can be attached to non-NFC-capable mobile devices. Since each of these stickers is associated with a credit card, users of the app do not have to worry about the safety of their bank account.

Additional security measures include the Secure Element, which is an encryption of the payment card credentials on the smartphone chip, as well as the possibility of setting up a PIN code. Secure Element is actually one of the many security layers of MasterCard PayPass. The partnership with Visa should also mean an increased number of security measures.

With so many limitations, we can only ask ourselves what happens when the battery runs out? Classic credit cards do not need power sources, so keeping one of those at hand, as a back-up option, is highly recommended. Google Wallet is only available in the US, which is a real pity, as people from all over the world should benefit from digital shopping experiences.

If you liked this post, please check the 14th anniversary of and the competition of Google Wallet.