Google Wallet's New Role: Letting Smartphone Users Send, Receive Money

Once a mobile payment app, Google Wallet is now focused exclusively on letting users send and receive money from their mobile devices.

Google Wallet

With the launch of the Android Pay mobile payment technology this week, Google has assigned its Google Wallet app a new role.

Originally launched as a mobile payment application in 2011, Wallet will now be used exclusively to enable users to send and receive money using their smartphones.

Owners of Android and iOS smartphones can use Wallet to send money to anyone in the United States with an email address—even if that person does not have a Wallet app, Pali Bhat, director of product management of Android Pay, said in a blog post announcing the repositioning.

Consumers who receive money through the application will be able to cash it out to a linked debit card or bank account. Or they can cash it out to Google's new Wallet Card, which is a physical debit card that works wherever MasterCard debit is accepted.

The new Google Wallet app is currently available for download from Google Play—but only in the United States at this time. So too is the new Google Wallet card. Consumers in the U.K., however, can send or request money through Gmail.

Google Wallet works on Android phones and tablets running Android 4.0 or above and on iOS devices running 1OS 7 or higher.

When originally released in 2011 as a mobile payment technology based on the near-field communication protocol, Wallet enabled smartphone users running iOS 6 and up or Android 4.4 (KitKat) and up to pay for purchases simply by activating the app and tapping their phone against an NFC-enabled register.

Although Wallet was one of the first mobile payment apps in the market, it failed to gain much traction among consumers and managed to muster a mere 4 percent market share as of late last year. Analysts have previously said that Google's inability to get many retailers to sign up for Google Wallet may have seriously limited consumer interest in the technology.

In repositioning Wallet, Google has made Android Pay its primary mobile payment platform. The company is rolling the new application out gradually over the next few days as an update for existing Wallet users. In addition, Android Pay will soon be available preinstalled on all new Android smartphones from T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T that support NFC, according to Google.

Google's moves to bolster its performance in the mobile payment market appear to be driven at least in part by Apple's entry into the space last fall with Apple Pay. Several analysts have predicted that Apple's technology could soon dominate the mobile payment space, though some have expressed concern over low consumer interest in mobile payment technology in general.

Following Apple's entry into the mobile payment arena, Google acquired IP and technology from Softcard, a mobile payment company owed by Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T. The purchase has given Google a way to preinstall its mobile payment app on handsets from all three carriers. Google has said Softcard's NFC technology will power future versions of Android Pay and Wallet.

Google is also said to be quietly testing another Bluetooth-based mobile payment technology dubbed Plaso that would allow users to pay for purchases using verbal cues.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.