Google Wallet debuted on Thursday, 26 May 2011. A quick lowdown:
- uses the proprietary NFC technology
- currently works with Google Prepaid Card & Citi MasterCard and the PayPass systems
- is an app that you download onto Android
- will be synced with Google Offers (Google’s answers to Groupon): so if you purchase something with Google Wallet and there is also a deal on Google Offers, you automatically get the deal!
- the only phone compatible right now is the Nexus S 4G from Sprint
Just one word: convenience. Carrying cash, while useful for those devious (European) vendors who only accept cash, is bulky and jangly. Carrying credit or debit cards, while decidedly less bulk, is still quite annoying, because to be safe, you need at least two different card providers (MasterCard, American Express, Visa, among others), in case a vendor does not accept one of them. Moreover, I hate bringing my huge wallet and fumbling with my cards–so whenever I exclusively go to Starbucks, I use the Starbucks Mobile Card on my iPod Touch, in which I can actually see and update my balance while earning ‘stars’ at Starbucks for free drinks, etc. So, Google Wallet and Google Offers synchronization? Slick.
If you cannot tell from the blog design, I am a minimalist at heart. If I am up for a day of city exploring, these are the things I will bring: credit card and phone. Not even a wallet. Just a credit card. Google has also said that this service could expand to IDs, boarding passes, tickets, and keys. Compacting everything into one device! My minimalist bees’ knees are quaking! I will never have to carry all these useless pieces of tree pulp, metal, and plastic again, and think I have lost them in my bottomless bag and cry for several minutes thinking I will never get into my house again. I lose track of things easily, and just having one thing to keep track of–my smartphone–will make things easier and less stressful for me.
However, before I run away with love for Google Wallet, I admit one of the first things I thought of was: what about security? All that financial and personal information in a gadget that is easy to lose?
There are two layers to the virtual card(s): the phone’s manual unlock, and the app’s PIN number. A spending limit can be set, and purchases over that limit will require text message or e-mail confirmations. The data of the cards will be encrypted by First Data, and the card numbers will never be fully displayed on the phone screen. When removed, physically tampered with or hacked into, the NFC chip will self-destruct.
Yet, I still have some reservations. From Google Wallet:
What To Do If Your Phone is Stolen or Lost
Even though the Google Wallet PIN and Secure Element protect your payment card information, you should still call your issuing banks to cancel your cards.
Cancel all my credit cards?! All of them?! Then that means I cannot put all my eggs in one basket and must still carry at least one physical card virgin from Google Wallet. Also, there is the possibility that the phone will break, I drop it into the ocean or a glass of milk, or just go haywire on its own, leaving me with no other method to pay (because really, with Google Wallet, the only thing I would carry from then on would be a phone). Concentrating all of this information into one device could be disastrous if anything averse to said device happens.
The Rambly Verdict: If Google keeps the app exclusive to Android, and is able to get partnerships with other banks who use MasterCard (cough, HSBC), I might actually be swayed to buy an Android as my next phone. I confess, my lazy self can be suckered in by promises of superlative convenience, even if it means just carrying one piece less of plastic. If Google is able to successfully have vendors adopt Google Wallet and Google Offers, this could be huge. Of course, ordinary people on the young side of the age spectrum will latch on, because paying by phone is such a cool novelty (at least in America, not in South Korea, China, and Japan!) that is worth the extra setup. For phones that do not have NFC capability, Google is working on a sticker that will allow them to make payments (but sadly, the stickers cannot connect with outside features like Google Offers). Right now, Google needs to focus on creating the partnerships, and the people will follow.
Extra: Google also needs to focus on the lawsuit from eBay and PayPal over trade secrets used in Google Wallet, though it is unlikely eBay and PayPal will throttle Google Wallet before it launches officially.
Extra Google Extra: Guess what? I got my Google Music Beta invite on Wednesday. Want to secure one yourself (by cheating)? Just check out a Xoom in Best Buy or Verizon Wireless and log in using your Google Account, and you will receive an invite soon–Xoom owners were supposed to be the first to get access. When I initially requested an invite, I just crossed my fingers and hoped my Cr-48 specialness would rub off again. It did! Yippee! Review will follow soon! Yippee!