Googles Wallet app now supports all credit and debit cards from Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover, the Android-maker announced Aug. 1, offering whats likely to be a boost to the slow-moving mobile payments market.
Google rolled out Wallet in the fall of 2011 with support from Citi MasterCard and Google Prepaid cards, which could be funded by other types of credit cards, and the promise that users would eventually be able to use those other cards more directly.
That day has finally arrived, thanks to a technical change in the way Google stores card information.
The Google Wallet app now stores your payment cards on highly secure Google servers, instead of in the secure storage area on your phone, the company explained in an Aug. 1 post on the Google Commerce Blog. A wallet ID (virtual card number) is stored in the secure storage area of the phone, and this is used to facilitate transactions at the point of sale. Google instantly charges your selected credit or debit card. This new approach speeds up the integration process for banks so they can add their cards to the Wallet app in just a few weeks.
Google has also changed its security features. While a Google Wallet PIN has always existedso a person with a stolen phone doesnt have the doubly bad luck of funding a shopping spreeand Google encourages Wallet users to also set up the phones screen lock, as of Aug. 1 Google has made possible to remotely disable Wallet on a phone by paying a visit to the Devices section in the online Wallet.
Since introducing the app, Google has made it available on seven devicesthe Galaxy Nexus, the LG Viper, the LG Optimus, the HTC Evo 4G, the Samsung Galaxy S 3 and, most recently, its Nexus 7 tablet. While Verizon Wireless has been the only major carrier to withhold its support, Sprintthe only Tier 1 carrier without a stake in Isis, a Wallet rivalhas been a major cheerleader. Early on, it pledged to support Wallet on 10 smartphones by the end of 2012.
Google has partnered with more than 25 national retailers, and through MasterCard PayPass, Wallet users can tap their smartphones to NFC-based (Near Field Communication) payment modules in more than 200,000 retail locations.
Still, both NFC technology and mobile payments have been slow to take off, though analysts expect both to eventually gain speed.
Juniper Research has forecast that NFC-based payments will exceed $180 billion by 2017, and in an Aug. 2 blog post, Forrester analysts Thomas Husson described NFC as finally moving past the chicken-or-egg stalemate of the past five years. The 2012 London Olympics have created tremendous exposure for the technology, and helped by this, Forrester expects nearly 100 million NFC-equipped devices to ship in 2012.
While usage will remain niche into 2103, said Forrester, it expects that, moving forward, the technology will be embedded in most smartphones and find use cases beyond contactless payments.
Samsung and Sony are for now the most obvious contributors to such an evolution. Alongside the launches of their latest smartphonesthe Galaxy S III and Xperia ion, respectivelythe manufacturers have introduced inexpensive packs of small NFC tags that users can program to perform various tasksfrom checking into Foursquare to turning off the ringerwhen tapped.
The mobile payments market could also get a lift should Isiswhich first made its way into headlines in 2010finally get off the ground this month, as its rumored to. TMoNews reported July 27 that an Isis pilot program is reportedly scheduled to begin August 20. Test markets for the technology have long been said to include Austin and Salt Lake City.
Another boostbased on another rumorcould come in the form of the Apple iPhone 5, which is expected to include NFC technology.