Can a refreshed Google Wallet finally take off?
A large challenge for Google on mobile payments is still one of availability. AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon are working on their own mobile payment service, called Isis, and have resisted putting Google Wallet on their handsets.
That may be part of the reason why Google is getting more aggressive in offering Nexus phones that aren't tied to the major carriers. The recently-announced Nexus 4 will be sold unlocked and contract-free for $300 and up.
Now, Google reportedly is testing a physical card for Google Wallet, which would work at stores that don't support tap-and-pay from mobile phones.
The Google Wallet card would store payment details from multiple credit and debit cards, Android Police reports, citing an anonymous source. Through the Google Wallet app, users select which of those payment methods to use by default, then swipe and sign the Google Wallet card as they would with a regular credit card.
The idea is that Google Wallet users can leave all their other credit cards at home. All they'd need is their smartphone and the Google Wallet card—and maybe some cash. Because the Wallet app can control which method of payment is associated with the card, it could make sense for users who spread their payments across multiple credit and debit cards.
Also, if the Google Wallet card is lost or stolen, users can cancel it, and won't have to cancel all their other credit and debit cards. In leaked screenshots, Google says it offers fraud monitoring and the ability to remotely disable the card at any time.
Changes for Google Wallet?
As Android Police notes, the physical card may be just a part of some big changes for Google Wallet. Other features may include support for transit cards, money transfers between users, and a “Wallet Balance” from which users can deposit and withdraw. Google has said that it wants to bring discount cards, tickets, and identification into Wallet to compete with the iPhone's Passbook feature.
Google may also be working on a way to bring a version of Wallet to other devices such as the iPhone. A recent sign-up page for news on “the next version of Google Wallet” asked visitors whether they used an Android device, an iPhone or “other.”
The iPhone doesn't support near-field communications, so any service would likely rely on barcode scanning instead.
Even if Google Wallet doesn't take off, the added features and availability should make it more useful. Ultimately, any mobile wallet service needs a clear answer for why people should use it instead of their existing cash and cards. It'll be interesting to see how Google answers that question when it's ready to show off what's next for Google Wallet.