The Google Wallet mobile payment near-field communications (NFC) app, first announced back in May, has officially launched for Sprint Nexus S 4G users via an over-the-air update. The essential idea is that when you visit a participating retailer, a wave of your phone is all it takes to make your payment.
As expected, Google's launch partners in this venture include Sprint, First Data, Citi, and Mastercard. That's why Citi Mastercard customers are the first to be link their existing plastic credit cards to the Google Wallet app.
For the rest, Google is offering a Google Prepaid Card, which can be loaded with value from any other debit or credit card. And as introductory special, Google's blog entry indicates that early adopters can get a bonus $10 in value if they set up a Google Prepaid Card in Google Wallet before year's end.
Google is promising that Google Wallet is an open ecosystem, and has announced that Visa, American Express, and Discover have made available NFC specifications for their cards that could mean they're going to be app-compatible sooner rather than later.
Retailers like American Eagle Outfitters already have the infrastructure to accept NFC payments from Google Wallet, PC Magazine is reporting. And while Google hasn't singled out any other retailers in this announcement, ZDNet had heard previously that 300,000 merchants were prepared to accept these payments - Google seems to be throwing the full bulk of its considerable weight behind this initiative.
Moreover, we do know that Google is working with other Android handset manufacturers to bring NFC to more devices. The Sprint Nexus S 4G is only the tip of the iceberg.
The pitch seems to be that Google Wallet lets users carry less cash and cards on them - after all, why carry a leather wallet when you can pay with the phone you're carrying with you anyway? But one thing we've heard is that it may be a long while before consumers trust Google Wallet with their cash.