It’s been just under two years since Google came out with Google Wallet, a revolutionary way to use your smartphone or tablet’s NFC capabilities to pay for stuff that you regularly buy. Since the service first came out, there are now a number of devices which are capable of using it, provided you’re also on the right carrier.
It also supports MasterCard, Visa, Discover, and American Express credit cards. I recently purchased for myself a Nexus 4, which is one of the phones that works great with Google Wallet. Shortly after, I made a goal for myself – try to use just Google Wallet for a week and see how it goes.
Now, before I begin, I have to note that I didn’t buy something with the digital wallet every day. As a college student, there were some days where I was simply too busy to go out, and other days I didn’t have the need to get anything. Additionally, I quickly set a low budget for myself, just so I don’t spend too much with the new-found ease of purchase.
I start out on the first day by simply getting a drink from one of my university’s vending machines. These vending machines are outfitted with special devices which allow you to swipe your credit cards in addition to the traditional cash-feeding. Not only can you swipe your credit cards, but they’re also outfitted with NFC receptors, perfect for credit cards which have MasterCard’s PayPass or Visa’s PayWave in them, as well as Google Wallet. I simply open up the Google Wallet app, type in the PIN I had set up earlier to unlock my cards, and choose the card that I wanted to use to pay.
Then I held up my phone to the NFC receiver, and after a second or two I hear a beep – the transaction is going through. In another 5 seconds I have an ice-cold drink in my hand, using only my smartphone.
Two days later, I decide to get something from McDonald’s. McDonald’s locations are outfitted with card readers which have a NFC receiver attached to the top, so it’s the same procedure as with the vending machine the other day. I order what I want, and after the total amount is calculated, I hold up my smartphone with the selected card up to the NFC receiver. The transaction goes through after a second or two of communication between the two NFC devices.
A few days after that, I go to Target to get some food items for my dormitory. Here, the credit card swipers aren’t outfitted with NFC receivers – you’re forced to swipe your card. There simply wasn’t a way around this, so I had to get out my wallet and pay the old fashioned way. For those keeping tabs, Wal-Mart is also the same way.
If there was a way where a kind of barcode would appear instead on my smartphone’s screen which the cashier could simply scan in, that would be a nice alternative while more stores become outfitted with the NFC receivers. Of course, that’s just an idea and I’m sure there are caveats to that.
After a week of trying to only use Google Wallet for my purchases, I’ve found that there are a few places which sport NFC receivers, but most locations lack this feature and still require you to swipe your card. The number of locations with the NFC receivers is growing, but it seems to be going at a slow pace as the technology that makes Google Wallet work has been out quite a while longer than Wallet itself. However, if you go to a location which does let you use it, Google Wallet is simply a joy.
I love the purchase experience with a digital wallet. It’s very simple yet still secure, as the PIN that you set when you first launch Google Wallet prevents anyone with physical access to your smartphone from buying something with it. It works quickly, usually clearing transactions in a day, and relevant information is passed on to your bank so you see more than just “Google Wallet Purchase”.
Now I know some of you must be shaking with rage from the fact that I have given Google my credit card information. However, I feel very safe by using Google Wallet. In some respects, it’s actually safer than real credit cards, as those have permanent NFC chips which can’t be turned off. Any malicious stranger who walks past you can read those cards by simply walking past you at a close distance. If you replace your credit cards with Google Wallet, this won’t happen because the NFC is only active whenever you open the app – right when you’re about to buy something.
The information stored on Google’s servers can potentially be retrieved by a hacker, but this is a potential risk for your bank’s website as well. I firmly believe that Google has a high priority on security. Contrary to most privacy advocates, I’m not bothered that Google could potentially use my data for something they need – it’s only a script that goes through all that information, and you’re not being singled out. I’ll gladly trade that off for the convenience that I get for the service. It also helps that Google recently stood up to the government, saying that it now requires warrants before handing over any information.
Overall, I absolutely love using a digital wallet. I now try to use it wherever there’s an NFC receiver. I’m saddened by the fact that there aren’t many places which let you do this yet, but I’m sure that the number will go up as demand increases. However, if you know that there’s a good number of stores which sport NFC receivers, then I recommend that you give Google Wallet a shot if you own a capable Android device.
What are your opinions on Google Wallet? Do you see this taking off? Am I crazy for trusting Google? Let us know in the comments!