Top 10 questions Google must answer before launching Wallet

Top 10 questions Google must answer before launching Wallet

Summary: Google announced its new Wallet payment program for mobile devices on Thursday. Despite a lengthy introduction, plenty of questions remain unanswered.

TOPICS: Google

Google announced its new Wallet payment program for mobile devices on Thursday. Despite a lengthy introduction, plenty of questions remain unanswered.

At first glance, I'm actually quite intrigued by the NFC-enabled app. I already enjoy being able to pay for Starbucks using the iPhone app. The gift card attached to the account is set up to auto-load funds directly from my credit card when low, much like the Google pre-paid credit card would for those who don't already have MasterCard accounts.

Being someone who travels between San Francisco and New York City often and shops and many of the locations Google has already signed on to the project (i.e. Walgreens, Bloomingdales, Jamba Juice, etc.), it would be a lot of fun to try out first. (The flip side to that is users in those metropolitan areas testing Google Wallet will also run into more problems and bugs with the app that Google hadn't foreseen.)

Nevertheless, that doesn't mean I'm ready to say goodbye to my plastic cards. (Or even cash. Where would i put it? Does anyone carry cash anymore?) The old-school, analog version of the wallet is here to stay for a long time.

  1. What if the smartphone's battery dies? In all likelihood, future NFC phones are going to be 4G/LTE-enabled. The way things are going now, like say with the HTC ThunderBolt, 4G drains a smartphone's battery at a rapid pace. Add that to making purchases throughout the day (morning coffee, lunch, etc.) a smartphone isn't going to make it through the day on a single charge. And if you're traveling or forget to charge the battery, what then? Plastic is still the safest bet.
  2. What about ATM cash advances? Until Google figures out away to install scanners of some kind on ATMs throughout the country, plastic again remains the default credit option.
  3. What if I lose my phone? This is probably going to be the biggest question on everyone's minds. Security is the biggest concern when it comes to mobile devices and identity theft, especially given how easily it can be to lose a cell phone. (How many Facebook invites have you received that read like "I lost my phone! Send me your numbers!"?) Google went over the security precautions in some detail, including talk about pin numbers and the NFC chip technology, but a better and clearer explanation is now available in Google Wallet's FAQ section.
  4. Who knows (and owns) my personal information? This was one of the more fuzzy topics during the media event. It wasn't discussed in the general portion of the introduction but rather brought up to Google & friends reps during the Q&A session. MasterCard execs tried to explain that really the owner of the phone is the owner of his or her data, and while it sounds like they won't sell information to third-parties, Google might want to take initiative with answering this to customers before having to do any damage control like it did with "Locationgate" recently.
  5. Does this open the door for spamming on smartphones? Google Offers is also launching alongside Wallet as a daily deals and rewards tracking app. Google has many reputable businesses signed up for offering discounts and other promos, but again, if the information is sold off or just ends up in the wrong hands, who knows what could happen?
  6. Will this technology replace cash registers and/or jobs? Unlikely. Just like with Square's new Card Case, the service is still rather limited. Technology is never foolproof. Some kind of error is always going to pop up and you'll need a real person on hand to solve it. Additionally, it's surprising that Google and other mobile payment proponents haven't discussed the possibility of easier thefts here. Sure, a customer can just hold up a phone, but what if its a screenshot or there are too many people in the store at one time?
  7. What about international travel? Google reps did say that they eventually plan to expand Wallet services worldwide, starting with Europe and then likely Asia. However, Visa remains the most used and accepted credit card worldwide, and it's likely that Google Wallet won't be accepted anywhere outside major cities for a long time. That leads into the next question...
  8. What about retailers that don't accept MasterCard? This might not even be a concern for the time being as MasterCard is one of Google's partners on the project (along with Sprint and First Data), so its unlikely that the team has recruited any retailers that don't take MasterCard. It might not be as common as Visa, but I have more problems with using an American Express card. Nevertheless, if Google is planning to expand this program so large that it becomes the norm and if retailers end up with some generic mobile payments system (which could happen in the next few years), this question might pop up again.
  9. What about iPhone and other smartphone users? Like I said before, Google Wallet really does pique my interest in streamlining purchases as well as an easy way to keep track of receipts without stuffing my wallet and/or purse with tiny strips of wasted paper. But I can't sign up for the program because of one glaring problem: I'm an iPhone owner. So far, it seems that Google Wallet will only be applicable for Android smartphones - not iOS or Windows Phone 7. Of course, the iPhone doesn't even have NFC capabilities yet, but the next generation model is expected to have the chip to enable mobile payments. It's likely that Apple would launch a similar service of its own given the media attention Google has received for this new venture, but the Cupertino, Calif.-based giant is fairly stubborn with only allowing payments made via iTunes. Nevertheless, rumors swirl that a deal with Visa is on the horizon...
  10. What's the deal with PayPal? Later on Thursday, PayPal slapped Google with a lawsuit saying that execs stole trade secrets from the eBay-owned company. Could this end up delaying or even blocking the launch of Google Wallet altogether? Whether or not the concept of digital wallets works out remains to be seen, but we can sure that a war is brewing here. It's not just between Google and PayPal, but expect every tech giant and credit card/online payment company to get into the mobile payment scene this year.

Related coverage on ZDNet:

Topic: Google

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Top 10 questions Google must answer before launching Wallet

    where is point number 10?
    • RE: Top 10 questions Google must answer before launching Wallet

      @hims2smart What about NFC sniffing?
      Your Non Advocate
      • RE: Top 10 questions Google must answer before launching Wallet

        @facebook@... Its not going to be a crazy big problem. The chip is only active when you are trying to make a purchase. It would be just as bad as a card skimmer for the most part.
  • Point 10 is the biggie here.

    Reminds me of Boeing V Lockheed a few years back. Ended very poorly for Boeing.

    I suspect the same ending for Google.
  • RE: Top 10 questions Google must answer before launching Wallet

    Some great points brought up.

    This is becoming standard. Google announces a new service or product and everyone thinks it's somehow going to be huge, and change the wold (remember GoogleTV the future of TV?). This looks like another that will go nowhere fast. If the pro consumer is concern with NFC security, how will this ever take off with the gen consumer?
    • RE: Top 10 questions Google must answer before launching Wallet

      @dave95. Easy. The gen consurmer is clueless/oblivioius to such trivia!
  • RE: Top 10 questions Google must answer before launching Wallet

    My questions: What's in it for me? How does it make my life easier? Do I really need this when I can swipe a piece of plastic just as easily?
    • RE: Top 10 questions Google must answer before launching Wallet

      It gives you savings for frequenting a store and you don't need paper receipts. Other then that nothing. what I would like to see is my bank working along side with this technology then I would be able to have an automatic balanced checkbook. Anybody remember back in the late 90's people were talking about a chips they would put in you arm or hand and all you info would be there (Some of them crazys thought it would be the mark of the beast). Now we will have this but is in your palm and it is more easy to lose LOL.
      • RE: Top 10 questions Google must answer before launching Wallet

        @nickitnite - But, I despise "loyalty clubs" because they are discriminatory. I visit a store out of town, and they ask "Do you have a (xyz) card? I reply "No, there is not a (xyz) store in my town." So, they "reward" locals, and discriminate against me just because I'm a visitor... A type of theft, in my book. So, the loyalty thing doesn't fly for me. As for paper receipts, it depends on whether there is an alternate (and not complicated) way to enter purchases into my home accounting program (Quicken or Money). If I have to retrieve them from the phone individually, there is no advantage. "More easy to use", but also, per point 3, very easy to lose. How do I get my account restored & reconciled in my replacement phone? Remember, convenience spawns carelessness!
    • RE: Top 10 questions Google must answer before launching Wallet

      @LoverockDavidson I see your point fully. How much different is tapping your phone rather than swiping a card? Not much different. It is sort of like all those RFID systems where at most security conventions, they prove that RFID type of credit cards could be read at 9 feet and RFID passports could identify you as an American if you are traveling in a foreign country. To me, there is no convenience worth that risk but I realize this may just be my preferences and not those of others. Still, I don't like any NFC forced down my throat even if it is only active at time of purchase. So, now I feel like I need to avoid Android phones too.
    • How does it make my life easier?

      @LoverockDavidson No apparent way that I can see...
  • RE: Top 10 questions Google must answer before launching Wallet

    Really? You complain about "who owns your data" yet you admit to using Apple's Starbucks payment system.

    Jesus christ.
  • Sweet Jesus Google Sucks

    With Nexus S owners returning their phones in droves because of crappy data and mobile reception, I'm sure this latest bunch of BS from silicon valley big brother inc., will be just another flop. Thank goodness Google is so inept or they'd be more dangerous than they already are.
  • RE: Top 10 questions Google must answer before launching Wallet

    Clearly a ecosystem in early stages of development. i think what will really work is out lined better at and it's about multi-factor authentication and payment card fraud prevention.
    • RE: Top 10 questions Google must answer before launching Wallet

      @dt_luke@... - And, the more money is contained in it, the more effort thieves will exert to crack it...
  • Battery drain

    Perhaps vendors who want to ensure a successful transaction will provide a mini- and micro-USB cord.
  • Who you gonna call?

    Furthermore, if problems arise with your "Google Wallet," does anyone think they can actually call a Google support line??? LOL! In your dreams maybe.
  • RE: Top 10 questions Google must answer before launching Wallet

    I imagine this will replace about as many jobs as u-scan checkouts have at the grocery store. They've probably replaced very few and made the whole experience of shopping at the grocery store that much easier. And, last time I checked, the person at the drive-thru still has to hand you your food, regardless of how you pay them; ez pass, credit card, cash... even google wallet.

    Still think it will take a while to catch on, but at that, I was surprised to see as many places already set up to work with it as there are in my area... at least according to Google's 'where's this work now' (web)page
  • RE: Top 10 questions Google must answer before launching Wallet

    has anyone every seen a merchant (in the US at least) that accepts visa but NOT mastercard. They might as well be one in the same. #8 is pointless. I for my non-amex cards I dont even know off the top of my head if they are visa or MC becasue they are interchangable. In fact citibank (among others) has changed from one to the other or even issued both types at the same time.
    • RE: Top 10 questions Google must answer before launching Wallet

      @michaelk67 - Well, yes, indeed I have encountered merchants who restrict what name cards they will accept - it depends on conditions with whatever bank they are using. Of course thoughtful ones will work to broaden their acceptance, but some just resist any expansion. And, as to AmEx, I really prefer it, but of course it's even more highly discriminated against - however for no real reason. When queried, they reply "It costs me more", and that is simply not true if they are using a reputable bank - in most cases they were just too lazy to set up the option, and/or were provided with a convenient excuse. I have actually left merchandise at the checkout when told they don't take AmEx. OTOH, AmEx is not known for their rapid acceptance of new tech either... but for me, it works well (I DO pay it off every month, so interest rate is a non-issue.) And with that I can laugh away freely at "Peggy", and at the Vikings...