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Google opening smartphone wallets
by Staff Writers
San Francisco (AFP) Sept 19, 2011


Google opened its smartphone wallet to the public on Monday.

Shops taking part in the program began letting people pay for purchases with taps of Nexus S 4G smartphones from Sprint.

"With Google Wallet, you can tap, pay and save using your phone and near field communication (NFC)," vice president of payments Osama Bedier said in a blog post at the Internet giant's website.

Google Wallet uses an NFC chip embedded in a smartphone to allow a user to "tap-and-pay" for purchases at a checkout register equipped with the PayPass system from CitiMasterCard.

"We've been testing it extensively, and today we're releasing the first version of the app to Sprint," Bedier said.

Wallet software is being sent to Sprint Nexus S 4G phones in the form of an automatic over-the-air update, according to Bedier.

"Simply install the app and the next time you spot one of the more than 300,000 PayPass locations around the globe, you'll be ready to go," gdgt.com co-founder Ryan Block said in a blog post at the MasterCard website.

"I'm really excited about taking another step closer to a future where using your portable device to instantly pay is as easy, convenient, and commonplace as making a call from anywhere in the world," Block said.

Google along with financial partners Citibank and MasterCard and telecom ally Sprint began testing Wallet in May.

Wallet initially works with the Nexus S 4G smartphone from Sprint and will eventually be expanded to more Android phones.

Visa, Discover and American Express made their respective NFC specifications available to Google on Monday so their payment cards could be added to future versions of Wallet, according to Bedier.

"Our goal is to make it possible for you to add all of your payment cards to Google Wallet, so you can say goodbye to even the biggest traditional wallets," Bedier said.

Customers can also use a Google Prepaid card to pay for purchases, topping up the Google card with any payment card, and take advantage of Google Offers, the Mountain View, California-based company's online discount coupon program.

Google said Wallet will be accepted at more than 124,000 merchants nationally at launch and more than 311,000 around the world.

NFC technology is being tested or used in a number of countries already, notably France, but Wallet will be the first to bring it to the United States on a potentially large scale.

Stephanie Tilenius, Google's vice president for commerce and payments, has described Google Wallet as the "next generation of mobile commerce."

"We're building an open commerce ecosystem that for the first time will make it possible for you to pay with an NFC wallet and redeem consumer promotions all in one tap, while shopping offline," Tilenius said.

In addition to allowing for mobile payments, Google Wallet allows consumers to pay using gift cards and to redeem promotions such as discounts or coupons.

Google is defending itself against a lawsuit filed by eBay and PayPal charging the Internet giant tapped into the online financial transaction service's know-how for the mobile payments project.

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