Google Wallet stretches to Apple's iOS minus NFC tap-and-pay capabilities
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is expanding its Wallet mobile commerce platform to archrival Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS days after eliminating a requirement that compatible devices must contain a Near Field Communications chip with a secure element. iOS does not support NFC-based technologies.
Google Wallet is now available on the iPhone.
Google retooled Wallet earlier this week, extending the application to all smartphones running Android 2.3 and higher. Google Wallet for Android and iOS enables users to send money to any U.S.-based contact with an email address. Google does not charge a fee on transactions sent directly from the user's bank account or Google Wallet Balance, and charges 2.9 percent per transaction on linked credit and debit cards. The app supports all major cards from Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover.
Google Wallet also doubles as a virtual container for customer loyalty cards, a model popularized by Apple's Passbook for iOS. "Add all of your existing cards into the app by scanning the barcodes or entering your card numbers," explained Google Wallet Product Manager Brian Kravitz. "Or, you can easily join new programs like Alaska Airlines, Belly, and Red Mango from within the app and redeem at checkout. For these merchants you can view your loyalty status and rewards balance, and you'll also see your saved loyalty cards in Google Now when there are nearby opportunities to use them. Other exciting programs that we'll be adding soon include Avis Car Rental, BJ's Restaurants, Cosi, Hard Rock International, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott International, Raley's and The Body Shop."
Google Wallet for iOS additionally supports merchant discounts found via the Google Maps app, Google Search or Google Offers. "Starting today, you can also save offers to Google Wallet directly from merchant or couponing sites such as Valpak.com," Kravitz notes. "Redeem all of your saved offers by showing your Google Wallet app to the cashier at checkout."
When Google Wallet first launched in May 2011, the app enabled consumers to make purchases by tapping their NFC-enabled Android smartphone at more than 200,000 MasterCard PayPass-enabled merchant terminals across the United States. Its dependence on NFC limited the service to a small number of smartphones, however: While Sprint (NYSE:S) and U.S. Cellular sold Android devices supporting Google Wallet, Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) did not, dramatically limiting adoption. The three non-participating carriers are currently rolling out their own rival m-commerce network, Isis, which is slated to launch nationwide later this year following consumer trials in the Austin, Texas and Salt Lake City markets.
Google said Wallet will continue to support NFC payments on qualifying Android devices. "If you have one of 29 different NFC-enabled devices, you can continue to tap and pay at hundreds of thousands of U.S. locations, while also enjoying the new Wallet features," Google Wallet Director of Product Management Peter Hazlehurst said earlier this week. "We also have more NFC-enabled devices on the horizon as we continue to invest in NFC with our partners."
Google Wallet is available for devices running iOS 6 and higher. The app follows close to a year after Google first hinted at iOS compatibility: Last October, Google quietly updated its Wallet website, stating "The next version of Google Wallet [is] coming soon," asking users "What kind of mobile device do you use?" and giving them three options: Android, Apple's iOS or "other," the latter represented by an illustration of a BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) smartphone with a physical keypad. Google maintained the page the months before finally taking it down. A Google spokesperson said Tuesday that the company wants to port Wallet to "all smartphone users," although BlackBerry and Windows Phone versions have not yet been announced.
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