Word on the street is that Google has teamed up with some key partners in an effort to turn your Android smartphone into a mobile payment system. With Mastercard and CitiGroup on its side, Google appears poised to let your Android smartphone replace your wallet. But, there are some key issues that Google must address if it wants NFC payments to be more than a passing fad.
Broad Credit Card Support
As it stands right now, the Android payment system will be limited to CitiGroup credit and debit card customers. There are many, many users out there with CitiGroup credit and debit cards, but they still represent only a fraction of the pool. Google needs to get as many banks and credit card brands on board as possible so that the Android NFC payments will work for virtually anyone rather than being restricted to specific users.
Get Retailers On Board
Being able to swipe your Android smartphone to pay for lunch is awesome, but if the only retailers that support Google's mobile payment system are hipster coffee shops within walking distance of the Google HQ campus, it isn't likely to get the sort of momentum it needs to catch on. The more retailers on board, the more convenient it will be, and the more likely users will be to embrace the concept.
Make Sure It Works Smoothly
I have a Chase debit card with Blink technology that allegedly enables me to just swipe my card through the air in the general vicinity of the reader to make payments. So far, my experience has been 50-50 at best. Most of the time I try to just swipe or hover the card on systems supposedly equipped to read it, I end up giving up and just swiping it through the physical strip-reading portion of the device instead. If I were relying on my Android phone and left my wallet and credit cards at home, I wouldn't have that option to fall back on and would be pretty annoyed if the Android NFC payment didn't work.
Secure and Protect Mobile Transactions
This is perhaps the biggest issue of them all. Yes, Google needs to make sure the Android mobile payments work, that retailers have the technology to accept them, and that bank and credit card support is broad enough to include most users. Having addressed those issues, though, Google needs to consider what happens when your Android smartphone--the one that now holds the keys to maxing out your credit cards--gets lost or stolen.
Smartphones are already a hot target, and if the smartphone doubles as a wallet with access to your credit cards you can bet theft of smartphones will spike. Android already has tools to protect the data on the smartphone and lock the device from unauthorized access, but it relies on users to configure it. If Android smartphone thefts start leading to credit card account breaches, users will run the other way rather than embracing the technology.
At this point, it seems that NFC mobile payments are somewhat inevitable. Outside of the United States, the mobile phone has been used as a means of payment for a variety of things for years, and both Google and Apple appear driven to incorporate NFC technology in next-generation smartphones. It could be awesome, or it could totally flop--it all depends on how it is handled.