>Google Announces Google Wallet, Google Offers

>Today, Google announced possibly one of it’s biggest initiatives to date, Google Wallet. Wallet will attempt to almost completely replace your wallet, money clip, or pocket book with just your smartphone. Using Near Field Communication, or NFC, chips, phones will be able to interact with existing MasterCard PayPass equipment at the register of stores, and of course new equipment will be coming out for it on both the consumer and business side.

When you first load the Google Wallet app up, you can enter in existing MasterCard (for now, more to follow) credit or debit cards, as well as a prepaid Google Card for you Visa and AmEx users. You will select a PIN, just like its plastic counterpart. When you get to checkout, you tap your phone to the PayPass reader, enter the PIN, and you’re done. But that’s not it. Vendors will also allow you to tie your loyalty and membership cards to your phone as well.

Even if you’re not interested in ditching the leather and plastic, Google will be launching Google Deals as well. It’s only in beta and available in Portland, New York City, and San Francisco for now, but more will be coming soon. While it may just look like a Groupon clone, sending you a single local offer a day, it does tie in with Wallet and also includes check-in deals (like 4Square) and you’ll start seeing NFC equipped ads. The email will have links to print the coupon or have it sent to your Wallet. And Wallet will take care of the whole thing in one fell swoop. So when you go to buy your jeans, it will take off the coupon amount, add in loyalty bonuses, and pay, all in one tap.

Overall, it’s pretty cool stuff, but there are some security concerns. Google promises that all of your sensitive information will be contained in the NFC  chip only, and that there are multiple layers of security under the PIN code, but no electronic system is perfect. NFC payments have been huge in Japan for many years, so it is a doable system, it just remains to be seen if many companies other than the ones mentioned will get behind it. That said, Google is off to a strong start, partnering up with MasterCard and big companies like American Eagle, Subway, RadioShack, Walgreens, CVS, and many gas stations.

The other big problem is that right now only one phone is equipped with the NFC chip: the Samsung Nexus S, and that phone is only on the two smallest carriers in the US, Sprint and T-Mobile. And so far, only Sprint is on board. Google did say that Motorola and HTC are also committed to making more NFC equipped devices soon, but until a few really big ones hit on every carrier (and a bump from Apple couldn’t help either), then it remains to be seen if Wallet will take off, or if it will end up like their last W project: Wave. The trials start immediately in NYC and San Fran, with nationwide launch scheduled for later this summer. We’ll keep you posted here!

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