Many Android users have been very excited about Google Wallet, something that has been available since last year on a select few Android devices. When I say select few, I mean two. Only the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (GSM version only) and Nexus S 4G have officially supported the service since its launch, so only owners of these two devices can safely use the service. Developers have ported the app to other devices via rooting methods, but it isn’t exactly a safe way of using the service.
This past weekend I had the chance to use the service, as AT&T has just granted access to use of the service on the GSM Galaxy Nexus. It was at a local McDonalds, and the transaction went smooth. The reaction was less than I expected, as the fine man running the cash register acted as if someone had done it before. Everything went as it should, and I used the pre-loaded $10 Google kindly gave me to treat my friends to some cheap food.
While I say that the transaction was smooth, it wasn’t as convenient as using a credit or debit card. Normally I simply swipe my card, but there was a few extra steps required to make this one though Google Wallet. I had to first prompt the terminal that I was making a credit transaction, and I also had to enter a PIN on my phone. On top of that, while many gas stations and fast food restaurants in my town support it, Google Wallet isn’t widely available. One could argue that it’s still rolling out, but that doesn’t change the fact that I can’t use it wherever I go now.
A few months back when a few of us nerds in the network were in a Skype call, the topic of Google Wallet and NFC came up. David from TmoNews made the point that once it is finished rolling out, Google Wallet will become the one stop solution. No longer will you have to carry money around, let alone a wallet. For him this may be an option (considering he’s an avid iPhone user, I doubt he’ll be using Google Wallet anytime soon though), but many of us still have a reason to carry a wallet. I have multiple I.D.s I need with me, and I carry my debit card at all times. Plus, you can’t beat having an awesome wallet as a fashion accessory.
My debit card is much more convenient, a simple swipe is all it takes. And the reactions are normal. I can guarantee that many locations will have no idea that their credit card machines are even capable of Google Wallet, along with the feature not being widespread.
As I stated before, most phones don’t even support the service yet. It has to do with carriers preventing access due to an initiative they have, known as ISIS. ISIS is said to be much like Google Wallet, with the major carriers AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile on board. This creates diversity, but not in a good way. For a service like Google Wallet to be successful, there needs to be unity, and that doesn’t seem to be coming anytime soon.
Google Wallet is not a viable alternative right now, and honestly, I don’t want it to be. It’s something I think is for more of a niche demographic, not meant for main stream. That said, we won’t know how NFC really turns out until it’s more widely available, but it has been a slow roll out. This next year should prove to be interesting, as technology is always evolving. Do you use Google Wallet? Is it truly a useful feature or a simple gimmick? Let us know in the comments!