Google announced both Google Wallet and Offers today, which give users the ability to process payments through smartphone via NFC. Google Wallet will first be available for Nexus S Android phones via Sprint this summer and expand to other NFC-capable phones over time. The initial rollout will be in New York City and San Francisco. Wallet will first support a Citi MasterCard wherever MasterCard PayPass is accepted as well as a prepaid Google card. Now that NFC mobile payment is finally a reality, will it be a game changer in how people pay?
Industry Put On NoticeGoogle's announcement is reverberating around the industry. Mobile payments startup Square, which uses a dongle to swipe credit cards and not NFC, has certainly been put on notice, especially since competitor Verifone is a partner in the NFC technology. Square announced a payment processing register and card case that will compete with Google Wallet for space on retailers' shelves earlier this week.
The original online payments leader, PayPal, expressed skepticism that Google can be a leader in payments.
"As the mobile payment leader (we expect $2 billion in payment volume to transact over mobile devices via PayPal in 2011), we'd be happy to comment," said PayPal spokesperson Anuj Nayar. "Put simply - before you try mobile (or any other payments) solution, you need to be great at payments. There is so much more than just technology involved to get payments right ... Any new solution must deliver something better than the existing way to do it. Not just different ... better."
Google rolled out the partners for the announcement today and there are some heavy hitters on the list: Citi is the bank behind the service, First Data is a point-of-sale company that handles 40 billion transactions a year, Verifone and Sprint will be the original handset provider through the Nexus S. Between Citi and First Data, there is enough payment knowledge that PayPal is now on notice as well.
Offers Goes After Groupon & Daily Deals
Groupon has yet another competitor as Google will deliver Offers to email inboxes and there will be deals through check-ins, online advertisements and Google Places. Groupon has partnered with Loopt and possibly with Foursquare in the past week, but the difference between Google Wallet and Groupon is that Wallet will be an app on any Android NFC phone, which according to Google, should be 150 million devices worldwide by 2014.
"This is not just an announcement, this is a real project," said Google's Osama Badier, a former top executive at PayPal.
Wallet & NFC Will Be Secure
One of the issues surrounding mobile and online payments has been security. Google said that it has taken industry best practices and added an additional layer on top. Payment information will be encrypted on the phone and the transaction will be secure between the merchant POS system and the security chip that manages the wallet on the smartphone. The wallet cannot be used unless it is unlocked with a PIN and NFC will be disabled if the phone's screen is off.
"We took the industry standard best practices with PayPass and smart card-based payments and wanted to make sure we added extra on top of that to really protect consumers and their credit card information," said Robert von Behren, one of the co-founders of the Google Wallet project. "This chip has a lot of security baked into it and this is where we are storing the credit card information."
Coming Soon...But Not Too Soon
While Google Wallet and Offers are cool, it may take a while for the technology to become mainstream. Smartphones sales are increasing exponentially and within the next several years most people will own some type of smart device with NFC enabled. But, if you thinking about paying for your Christmas presents with your phone this winter, you probably will not be able to. Holiday season 2012 is more likely.
"This will accelerate the growth of NFC technology and handset adoption, however, it is still at least 1-2 years away from mass adoption and significant market penetration," said Dan Trigub, VP of business development at mobile advertising specialist Blue Bite. "That said, this will help advance the adoption and awareness of the technology as we are very excited about it. Likewise, given the growth of the mTAG and our NFC content delivery platform, this is something that we would ultimately want to integrate and offer through our network as well."