Google Wallet relaunch: Loyalty/gift cards return, iPhone app added

Last month it looked like Google Wallet was going the way of Reader, but this week we see it launch with expansion to the iPhone and the return of loyalty and gift cards.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer on
Google Wallet relaunch: Loyalty/gift cards return, iPhone app added
Image: Google

Just last month I wrote about Google removing gift and loyalty cards from Google Wallet with indications Wallet was on the way out. Imagine my surprise this week when they launched a new Android and iPhone versions that bypass the carriers and offer the service to all who wish to use it.

Google Wallet for Android

Carriers restricted Google Wallet installation and use on Android with statements about security and reasons likely also tied to other partnerships. Turns out I set my hopes too high as Kevin Tofel explains carriers can still limit the use of NFC for wireless payments. The new Android version is available in the US for Android 2.3 and higher devices.

With this new version you can use it like PayPal and send money to anyone with an email address. It is free to send money from your Google Wallet balance or associated bank account, but there are fees (2.9 percent or 30 cents minimum, in most cases) for credit cards.

You can also continue to use Google Wallet via NFC like you did before at the thousands of locations around the US, but carriers still restrict are no longer blocking its usage. I found it convenient to use in the past, but was frustrated that so many devices were locked out of using it.

You can now add your loyalty cards manually or by scanning the barcode. Google Now integration is also part of this so loyalty cards will appear when you are near a vendor. There are also special offers in Google Wallet.

Google Wallet for iPhone

Image: Google

Today, Google rolled out Wallet for the iPhone and it can be installed on iOS 6 and higher devices. The pay by email, loyalty and reward card integration, and Google Offers are all supported by this iPhone application. Without NFC, tap-to-pay is obviously not supported.

Isis is another mobile payment system in development with support by carriers, but it is in limited testing areas. Microsoft and Apple have failed to generate too much interest in their OS-based wallet apps because the usability is limited and setup is not as friendly as it could be.

My phone is always with me and I find it a bit of a pain to carry a wallet loaded up with cards. I hope that these new apps by Google help reduce the confusion and fragmentation and get mobile wallet usage back on track.

Related ZDNet mobile payment coverage

Editorial standards