With the changes made to Google Wallet recently, and the change made to the NFC hardware in the Nexus 7, many wondered just how Google planned to move forward. Would they simply get rid of Wallet, change it drastically, or try and forge a new path. The answer still isn’t entirely clear, but with Android 4.4, we get a few more clues as to the future of Google’s payment system.

The rub with Wallet was always security, as the NFC had a secure element that stored information. Secure or not, that led many (specifically carriers) to believe Wallet and the NFC technology present was at-risk. The new hardware gets rid of that secure element, and utilizes what Google is calling Host Card Emulation (HCE). This emulation allows for any Android app to emulate a smart card, and lets users continue to tap to pay at the point-of-ale location.

This is important because it takes the security responsibility/risk out of the hands of Google, and places it square on the developer. By using Application Identifiers (AIDs) to route payments to the appropriate app, Google seems to be following the same path hey laid with Offers: they want to be a conduit, not the solution.

The one thing that’s missing? Implementation. This change is as good as any mobile payment solution out there, it just has no support from Developers. The good news is that Google is no longer to blame, and instead has chosen a support role for Wallet, rather than go head-to-head with providers like ISIS. The technology is there, Developers just have to work it into their apps.

  • Is it still locked down to Mastercard, or does this mean all card types will be compatible now?

    • JPB

      All card types have been available for some time now, at least a year now. The Mastercard part of it is just that Paypass was the first type of controller to be supported. The Google payment comes across as a virtual Mastercard but it maps to any card you want to keep in your “wallet”.

      For instance, I have two Visa cards in my Google Wallet. When I use them to tap and pay, the store sees a Mastercard # and I see the charge to whatever card/account I use prefixed as “GOOGL*WALLET” or something like that.

      Works around here at ShopRIte, CVS, Walgreens, Sports Authority, Macy’s, the local gas station & bagel shop, CItifield and probably a few other places I’ve forgotten. The “Google Wallet” doesn’t work anywhere mantra really isn’t true, at least in the NY area.

      • You’re lucky. I haven’t been able to get it to work anywhere… ever.

      • I have it on my phone and have Visa card attached to it, so should I be able to use it anywhere with the NFC payment system? Also do I need to have my phone screen on, or can I just hold the phone near the payment system when it prompts for payment?

      • JPB

        For the pre-4.4 version, so long as your carrier hasn’t disabled it (Verizon, T-Mo, AT&T all have it disabled) it will work. Even if your carrier has disabled it, if your phone has the bootloader unlocked and has a means to download and install ROMs, you can follow instructions on XDA to bypass the carrier lockout. But that’s entirely at the risk of the user.

        I can’t speak at all for what the 4.4 version will mean for carrier lockout. The carriers have been big investors in Isis, the Visa alternative, so they’ll probably find an excuse to declare this insecure as well.

  • banj

    hopefully google make it available to everyone regardless of what carrier you have..