What’s the Fuss About Google Wallet?

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Get ready! Virtual wallets are hitting the market. The question is: Will we use them?

Google Wallet and competitors like Visa Digital Wallet want you to make the jump from your trusty if bulky leather wallet to a virtual version of the same.

This is what Google’s saying about its new product (edited for verbosity):

  • Put your credit card info into your phone and make purchases by tapping and paying, using near field communication (NFC). During this process, coupons and loyalty points are uploaded to your virtual wallet from participating vendors.
  • Your credit card credentials are encrypted and stored on a computer chip called the Secure Element, which is separate from the mobile phone memory. For additional security, you set up a PIN, which is entered before each purchase.
  • Someday, boarding passes, IDs and even keys could be stored on the Wallet.

I like the idea of a virtual wallet, but would I use it? Currently, Google Wallet only works with Citi® Mastercard® and the Google Prepaid card, and is compatible only with the Nexus S 4G. It will be expanding to include more cards and phones, but it’s hard to say when that’ll happen.

Maybe it launched a bit early … but maybe it has to start somewhere.

It’s a nice use of MoLo (Mobile Local), which is using your mobile device to find and pay for local services and products.

When you combine smartphones, geo-targeting technology, and NFC, you just get giddy with the possibilities. You can float through your day with nothing more than your phone. That I like.

The downside is, not all smartphones are NFC-enabled and Google’s projection is that only half of smartphones in the U.S. will be NFC-enabled by 2014. Those aren’t great numbers.

Google Wallet is being field-tested in New York and San Francisco as of late May/early June 2011. The national release is set for sometime this summer.

Google is also announcing Google Offers, which sounds like an e-version of coupons. I like coupons but I don’t like carrying them around and spreading wads of them out in front of the cashier. If I can have all of my coupons on my phone and use them just by tapping, I’ll be happy.

Google Wallet sounds like another way technology is making life simpler. But it’s not yet universal. When it is, if it ever is, I’ll use it.

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