The death of NFC is upon us! Not really, but it looks like Google is really pushing for a backup plan in case NFC fails in the market. Yesterday, they purchased the company Bump, which made an app allowing file transfers through a bump that did not require NFC. I speculated that it was going to be Google’s backup plan if NFC doesn’t work out, because NFC isn’t going very far at the moment. However, they’ve now done the same with Google Wallet.
Previously, the Google Wallet app was only available on NFC enabled Android phones on Sprint or a few select prepaid carriers. It would allow mobile payments through NFC, but most carriers blocked it because they are creating their own mobile payment system, Isis. Even though Google Wallet is a service that spans beyond just mobile payments, it was limited to only a few phones. However, Google has changed that.
Starting today, the Google Wallet app will be updated to support all US Android phones running 2.3 Gingerbread and up. It’s currently limited to the US, but any phone on any carrier with or without NFC will be able to download this app when the update rolls out to everyone. NFC payments won’t be enabled for anyone new, but there are plenty of new features to be excited about!
Building on the announcement of a money transfer feature in Gmail, the new Google Wallet app will allow you to send money to other Google Wallet users from a bank account or your Wallet balance absolutely free. And if you use a credit or debit card, there will be a small fee. Will it take on PayPal? It’ll be a while before that happens, but it’s an awesome service to start using. And it should offer purchase protection according to the Wallet FAQ, so it’ll be the perfect PayPal replacement.
You can also add things like loyalty cards to your Google Wallet app by entering the code or even just scanning the barcode on it. This will allow you to show stores loyalty cards from your phone without needing to carry them around or to activate them through NFC. There are also various loyalty programs built into the app.
Google is pushing further and further away from NFC technology without abandoning it. NFC isn’t really expanding at this point, but is Google afraid it might fail? It’s creating a damn good backup plan in case it does. But really, the new Google Wallet app was needed. Wallet is a service far bigger than just mobile payments, so it’s good to see its functionality being expanded on mobile.
This new app update will be rolling out like all Google app updates do: over the next few weeks. So keep an eye out for when you can install the Google Wallet app on any device! And maybe we just might see the app go cross platform, losing its alliance to Android. If it allows money transfers to any smartphone user, Android or not, I’m down with that.