Google may be seeing the writing on the wall. NFC adoption is still moving slowly, probably towards its own demise. It is believed by some that retailers have scaled back implementation of NFC kiosks because of the lack of compatibility from the iPhone. Google in turn has made some moves away from NFC with a purchase of Bump earlier this week and an updated Wallet update that does not center around using devices to make payments at NFC checkout locations. The latest Wallet update works for devices running Android 2.3 and above.

In turn, Google has made Wallet more similar to Apple's Passbook application. Here is a look at what's new in Google Wallet from the Play Store:
  • Send money to any friend in the US with an email address.
  • Easily add all of your loyalty cards, offers, and more to Google Wallet and redeem in stores.
  • Your PIN keeps Google Wallet more secure, and if you lose your phone you can remotely disable the app at http://wallet.google.com/manage
  • The Google Wallet app uses your location to show you nearby offers and more. If you would like to turn this feature off, please go to Settings and turn off Location Sharing.
NFC is still there, if your device is supported. For the sake of giving my hands on impressions, I wanted to test out the new features right away. My first test was to send money. I figured I would net no loss by forwarding ten bucks to my wife. The money would essentially stay within the same account.

I tapped on Send Money, which is prominently featured when I entered the app, and typed in her email address. I typed in a short message and sent the money. Both she and I received an email alerting us of the transfer and she was given less than 15 days to accept the money or it would be returned. She received the money and it's in her Google Wallet account. Now we just have to decide how to spend it or if we just roll it back into our checking account again. I will trust her keen judgement with the money.

The Google Commerce blog stated on Tuesday that transfers from linked bank accounts will carry no fees at this time. There will be a fee attached to transfers made from linked debit or credit cards. That fee amounts to 2.9% per their FAQ. Google went on to state, "And as an added bonus, once you send money with the Google Wallet app, you'll also get early access to sending money in Gmail from your desktop while we continue to roll out the feature broadly to Gmail users." I have had this feature for a while, but for those waiting for access to transferring funds via GMail, here is your chance.

Next up, I entered the eight loyalty memberships that was filling my wallet. I had three grocery store rewards cards, one for my gym, and the rest were for various home improvement shops or chain dining establishments. The real test of these rewards memberships will be if the clerk can scan these barcodes without that awkward experience where they have to manually typing in the number on their registers. The entry only took a few minutes. I typed in a few letters of most establishments and Wallet auto completed the membership. I was then given the option to type in the number or take a photo of the barcode. Typing in the barcode better loaded the information into Wallet vs typing it in manually. Once completed, I was able to tap on that membership card and see the barcode. I just personally wish I could use NFC to hone in my rewards cards. This passport type system is neat, but it seems outdated, much like the iPhone itself.

Finally, I went into Offers to see if there was anything in my area that I could save. Living in Richmond, VA gives me few options, but there were some local restaurants that offered some discounts. There is little new with Offers. Once a discount is saved, I just tap the Use Now button and show the phone to the retailer. I've used it a few times and each time it's worked in saving me money. Saving money cannot be beat, but it is not unique to Android. Again, I would still like to see Google push to expand NFC so that I could tap my phone to get discounts the same as using my rewards cards.

walletThe overhaul does well for the Wallet ecosystem. I can see my transactions on the home page, I can lighten the load of my physical wallet, I'm able to send money to anyone, and in time this will become a central hub with other services to find and save on deals. Having an S4 on AT&T also makes this application useful again for me, but I am still hoping in time carriers and retailers will give Wallet the opportunity to live and not be unfairly killed out.

I would also advise Wallet users to make themselves familiar with the disabling feature at the Wallet web page. The app will stay open now for an entire day or forever. There is an option to lock the app after 15 minutes, but I had to unlock it several times testing out the app. Setting the app to stay unlocked for a day is fine provided users know how to quickly disable the app in case the phone falls into nefarious hands.

I also do not see a message at the header about my phone being rooted. Previously I had a yellow banner advising me that I had rooted my phone. Most of all, I appreciate that the application is not locked out being rooted as it does with Isis, an alternate mobile wallet application. I would just appreciate the ability to use NFC that is built into my device from Samsung via AT&T. The time is now for retailers to move ahead and allow users to use their phones to make payments. That evolution is here now.

If you've given the new Wallet a shot and have any experiences using any of these features out and about, let us know what happened in the comments.



Play Store Link

source: Google Commerce Blog