Gone are the days when you had to carry a clunky DynaTAC to make phone calls, pocket phone book for you contact list, Sony Discman for your tunes, and wallet for you cash and credit cards. Today, all you need is your smartphone. To be specific, Google's Nexus S 4G on Sprint.
Google Wallet rolled out yesterday, which allows users of the NFC-enabled Nexus S 4G to pay for merchandise at stores and restaurants equipped with a MasterCard PayPass kiosk using just their smartphone. Users will receive the Google Wallet application through an Android update, and will be able to use the mobile app to pay for goods at roughly 300,000 locations, using either a linked Citi MasterCard credit card or a Google Prepaid Card.
Google's currently promoting Google Wallet in New York and San Fransisco, but technically, if you have a Nexus S 4G that gets the Google Wallet update, then you can shop anywhere—not just in those cities. But the Google Wallet app isn't just about credit cards. It also features gifts cards (only American Eagle right now), loyalty cards, Google Shopper and Google Offers, which are Groupon-style deals based on your location. And right now, the two launch cities are just a handful of the places that support Google Offers.
Though the Google Wallet app is only available on the Sprint's Nexus S 4G smartphone, Google is working with all major manufacturers of smartphones that run on Google's Android software to incorporate near field communication (NFC) chips for use at payment terminals. And soon enough, it won't be limited to MasterCards either. American Express, Discover, and Visa have all partnered with Google, though there is no word on when they will be included in the Wallet.
But how does Google Wallet work exactly?
It's simple. Once you have the Google Wallet app, you just need to link a physical Citi MasterCard that already supports PayPass to the phone by entering your card number, expiration date, zip code, etc. You can also add money to a Google Prepaid Card directly in the app using any credit or debit card you own. Google is currently offering a $10 bonus for individuals who setup a Google Prepaid Card on Google Wallet before the end of 2011.
You can also select either the Prepaid Card or MasterCard as your default payment method. If you only have one funded/linked, it will automatically be selected. The last thing to do is select your PIN to unlock Google Wallet, which can be set to timeout for either 1, 5, 15 or 30 minutes.
To use your smartphone to pay for products and services, you just need make sure your device is awake (for security reasons, the NFC chip is not enabled during sleep) and that the Google Wallet app is opened. You will need to enter your PIN to open the app. Then just tap it to the PayPass terminal to make a payment. If too much time has elapsed since you inputted your PIN, you may need to reenter it and tap again. And that's it. You're done.
Right now, the NFC chip only works one way, from phone to payment terminal, but Google hopes that it will work both ways soon, so customers will be able to receive receipts and promotions from merchants. And if you can't wait for Google Wallet to come to your smartphone, maybe you should think of alternative methods of cell phone checkout.
Google claims that their Wallet is a secure method of payment, though others disagree. PCMag states that it take a mere 18 minutes for a hacker to guess a four-digit numeric PIN, so why didn't Google implement a longer and more complicated PIN requirement? It would take 51 hours for someone to crack a five-digit alphanumerical PIN and 8 years for someone to decipher a six-digit alphanumerical code.
Would you feel safe using Google Wallet?