September 19th, 2011

Google leads e-wallet charge with limited public release of Google Wallet

Google has today started a limited roll out of its Google Wallet app to the publice. The app enables users to pay for goods and services using a Citi MasterCard credit card, or a Google Prepaid Card, which can be funded with any of the user’s existing credit cards.

Initially, it is only available for Nexus S 4G phones on the Sprint network in the US, via an over-the-air Android update.

In a blog post announcing the launch, Osama Bedier, Google’s vice president of payments, wrote that Visa, Discover and American Express have made available their NFC specifications that could enable their cards to be added to future versions of Google Wallet.

“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” Osama Bedier, Google’s vice president of payments


Google Wallet will be marketed in the US only, although the pre-paid card will work internationally at launch. It can be used at any of the 300,000 outlets that use Mastercard’s existing PayPass terminals. Retailers signed up to the scheme in the U.S. include American Eagle Outfitters, Bloomingdales, Foot Locker, Macy’s, Toys ‘R’ Us, Subway, Radio Shack, McDonald’s, 7-Eleven, Best Buy, BP and most New York cabs. In the UK, Tesco, Boots and Burger King also have readers.

However, alternative payment systems and alliances are taking shape. Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T- Mobile USA are planning to invest more than $100 million in a competing venture called Isis. It has partnerships with Visa, MasterCard Inc, Discover Financial Services (DFS) and American Express.

The carriers are keen to grab back some of the revenue that has been taken by Apple and Google for apps, music and other content. With worldwide mobile payments expected to generate $240 billion this year and growing two to three times that amount within the next five years, according to consulting firm Juniper Research, there is much still to play for.

“Over the long haul, operators have to create new businesses that derive value from more than access,” Chetan Sharma, an independent wireless analyst in the U.S., said in an interview. “It’s a given that people are going to be transacting more over cell phones. It could open a potential new revenue stream for them.”

Isis aims to build on its carrier partners’ existing distribution network and customer relationships. The carriers could potentially preinstall Isis software onto their phones, making it easier to use. They also may push handset manufacturers to adopt Isis software.

Isis would also let consumers receive and redeem coupons via their mobile devices – in addition to making payments. The service, which will debut in 2012, will make money by charging marketers a fee for sending offers to consumers’ phones.

Visa, which runs the world’s largest credit-card network, is hedging its bets. In addition to its involvement in Isis, it is also working on its own mobile-payment service. It recently introduced incentives to encourage U.S. merchants to adopt new credit-payment terminals able to accept mobile payments.

Samsung Electronics Co. and Research In Motion Ltd. (RIMM) are also due to roll out new phones that can tap on card-payment terminals at cash registers to make mobile payments.

By 2014, at least one in five smartphones globally will rely on a technology called near field communications to offer mobile-payment functions, according to Juniper Research.

3 comments to Google leads e-wallet charge with limited public release of Google Wallet

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