As expected earlier this week, Google announced the Google Wallet NFC payments program as well as the Google Offers open platform at its headquarters in New York City on Thursday
Using both Near Field Communications and geo-targeting technologies, Google already has several partners lined up, including Sprint (as rumored), First Data, MasterCard and Citi.
In an effort to combine mobile and local commerce, Google's VP of Commerce Stephanie Tilenius said at the media event:
Google Wallet combines offers and payments at the point of sale, makes it easy for partners and third-parties to create better consumer experiences, and drives brand new shopping experiences for everyone...Your phone will be your wallet. Just tap, pay and save.
Tilenius acknowledged that "this vision will take awhile to come to fruition." A field test starts today, and Google Wallet will officially launch this summer in San Francisco and New York City first, followed by a roll-out nationwide.
Google execs asserted that 300,000 merchants are ready for the Google Wallet program, including Macy's, Walgreens, Noah's Bagels and Toys 'r' Us, among others.
As far as the actual credit cards stored in the phone, Google Wallet will support "multiple cards," including Citi's MasterCard and a Google pre-paid card that can be reloaded by any existing credit cards. Wallet will also be supported at MasterCard's PayPass terminals.
NFC is starting to become an integral feature on smartphones. At least Google and Samsung's Nexus S is ready to go. Android phones without NFC chips will be able to take advantage of at least Google Offers. Tilenius added:
By 2014, 50% of smartphones will be NFC-enabled. That's 150 million devices. For business, Google Wallet is an opportunity to offer faster and easier shopping with rewards points.
Naturally, security is going to be a huge question on the minds of consumers when it comes to paying with a mobile device - especially one that could easily be lost. Google reps cited several security features, starting with the most obvious function: the phone itself can already be locked. Additionally, to use Google Wallet, the user has to enter a four-number pin number, the credit card information is encrypted and the card itself is never fully displayed.
Despite the reassurances, It's almost certain that this discussion on mobile payment security will continue as the technology evolves.
The second big announcement of the day was Google Offers, which is essentially Google's entry into the daily deal craze. Google Offers will be delivered to inboxes daily, much like consumers already subscribe to email lists from retailers. A few of the big retail partners cited at the event included American Eagle Outfitters and Jamba Juice.
To redeem offers, buyers have two options: either tap the phone at the point of sale or show the display to a cashier on the way out. Again, this is going to take awhile to get used to as it almost seems that the door for theft could have opened a bit wider.
As far as the types of offers go, promos include check-in offers (like FourSquare, Loopt, etc.), Google Places pages offers and other advertisements. From there, users could pay, use offers and earn loyalty/rewards points with one tap. Eventually, Google promises that consumers will be able to put everything in the Google Wallet.
Google Offers will be available first in Portland, San Francisco and New York City this summer.