Google today revealed its latest entrée, “Google Wallet,” a mobile app for Android smartphones, meant to be used as an “electronic wallet.” Currently in the field testing stage, Google expects to release it soon.
Google Wallet is aimed at making shopping easier for users.
How to use it? Just tap and pay using your mobile phone instead of carrying cash, credit or debit cards around. It lets you pay with your phone and if there’s one thing I like about it – it helps combat wallet bloat.
How Does Google Wallet Work?
It works by integrating debit or credit cards, gift cards, loyalty cards and others into a single application. Just like how credit cards come with built-in wireless chips that help tap-and-pay, the new Sprint Nextel Android phones will be able to do the same.
This wallet uses built-in near-field-communications (NFC) chips that can even be added to older Android phones. They work at more than 311,000 stores worldwide with MasterCard Terminals installed.
“At first, Google Wallet will support both Citi MasterCard and a Google Prepaid Card, which you’ll be able to fund with almost any payment card. From the outset, you’ll be able to tap your phone to pay wherever MasterCard PayPass is accepted.”
Syncing Offers And Loyalty Programs
With Google Wallet, you’ll also be able to sync a variety of offers and loyalty programs from different merchants, including Google Offers. Such offers can be redeemed via NFC at SingleTap merchants or by displaying the barcode when checking out. It is said that several merchants are already working towards integrating their offers with this new wallet.
Google is said to have sought the resources of MasterCard and Citibank for credit and financial technology.
According to the head of mobile for MasterCard Worldwide, Mung-Ki Woo, “It’s basically the same technology as credit cards. It’s not better or worse.”
Customers of Citibank who own MasterCards will be able to transfer their cards to the digital version of Google Wallet app. Google is also getting prepared to offers its very own prepaid card, which needs to be refilled using a credit card.
But even the best technology doesn’t help when the phone dies. Both Google and MasterCard don’t seem to have a solution for this situation, which is bound to happen. Perhaps they could think of installing chargers at all checkout points.
The Crucial Security Aspect
We all know how important security is when using mobile payment services. Google Wallet website states that all fraud and privacy controls meet industry standards and all card numbers are encrypted using the MasterCard PayPass encryption technology, and stored away on a highly secure chip on the smartphone. Google calls this the “Secure Element.”
“Google Wallet stores your encrypted payment card credentials on a computer chip on your phone called the Secure Element. Think of the Secure Element as a separate computer, capable of running programs and storing data. The Secure Element is separate from your Android phone’s memory. The chip is designed to only allow trusted programs on the Secure Element itself to access the payment credentials stored therein.”
According to Google, if there is a problem with malware attacking the operating system in the phone, this Secure Element is said to have been designed appropriately, to protect the information.
But there have been concerns voiced by a section of the security experts who are not convinced that the Security Element can keep the phone secure. They fear that once the phone lands in the hands of unscrupulous elements, in spite of all the protection, they will still be able to control the Google app and grab your credentials.
A PIN is needed to unlock the Google Wallet app and make a payment, and this precaution prevents unauthorized access and payments. Android phones also come with a lock screen.
This PIN and Secure Element, Google says, will protect all information even when the phone is stolen or lost. So, there is no chance of anyone getting through. Apart from this Google Wallet also comes with two additional security measures that normal NFC payment cards don’t have. Firstly, the NFC antenna is only enabled when the phone screen is powered on and secondly, the PIN has to be entered before any details are sent to the reader.
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Who Can Begin Using Google Wallet Now?
Since this is just the beginning, users from San Francisco and New York get to use this new technology first. Of course, they can use their phones anywhere at a MasterCard Terminal. Woo says, several other cities will be added by fall and plans are being made for a worldwide distribution too.
Competition is At It
Not one to be left behind, Apple is already working on NFC-enabled versions of the iPhone and BlackBerry. Square a new company led by Jack Dorsey, Twitter inventor, is also working on a similar app. But this one works by revealing your name to the cashier after checking in using some software.
Owing A Google Wallet
Overall, the idea of a wallet phone makes a lot of sense; taking into consideration the fact that you don’t have to carry all your cards with you. Mobile banking is not new and has already spread its wings in the developing world, and the ability to leapfrog the credit card networks and handle transactions via NFC is a boon. Of course, you will have to get an NFC capable phone to use this facility or make your old phone NFC capable.
Right now, Google Wallet is compatible with Sprint’s Nexus S 4G by Google, and plans of expanding to other phones are in place.
Let’s take in the excitement of the moment and if you’re living in New York or San Francisco, look out for these symbols when checking out: