Google extends Wallet to unlocked Android Galaxy Nexus

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Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) released an unlocked, contract-free version of Samsung's Galaxy Nexus smartphone that pre-installs the company's Google Wallet tap-and-pay service, which was previously limited to a handful of Android smartphones available from Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S).

The unlocked Galaxy Nexus, available for purchase via the Google Play storefront, is optimized for the GSM networks of AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile USA; it sells for $399. Both Sprint and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) offer CDMA-LTE versions of the Galaxy Nexus for $199.99 with a two-year contract, although only Sprint supports the Google Wallet service. Sprint also offers two other Google Wallet-enabled devices, the LG Viper 4G Elite and LG Optimus Elite; the carrier's Virgin Mobile subsidiary additionally will support Wallet on the Optimus Elite.

The unlocked Galaxy Nexus offers a $10 credit to consumers who set up a Google Prepaid Card. Google and Sprint are currently running a similar joint promotion that gives a $10 credit to all subscribers who purchase the carrier-specific version of the Galaxy Nexus through May 22; the companies also add another $40 to the user's Google Wallet within three weeks of account activation.

During February's Mobile World Congress 2012 event, Vice President of Google Wallet and Payments Osama Bedier said Sprint will introduce "at least 10 additional phones" with support for the service this year. But rival operators have been slow to embrace Google Wallet: Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile USA are teaming for Isis, a rival mobile payment service slated to begin consumer trials this summer.

Last month, Bloomberg reported Google is considering sharing Wallet revenues with operators to expand the service to additional Android devices and galvanize consumer adoption. Another possibility under consideration, sources told Bloomberg: Google may sidestep operators altogether, relying more heavily on in-store point-of-sale systems to process Google Wallet transactions. The approach could involve hardware or software upgrades to existing POS terminals coupled with software running on Google servers. Google Wallet is currently tied to MasterCard's PayPass network, which spans more than 300,000 merchant terminals.

Availability across multiple operator networks and handsets is imperative for services like Google Wallet and Isis to achieve critical mass. Six device manufacturers--HTC, LG, Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI), Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM), Samsung and Sony Ericsson--have committed to introducing Near Field Communications-enabled devices that support Isis.

For more:
- read this Google Commerce Blog entry

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