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Google Wallet – Will NFC Matter to Consumers?

Google Wallet on Nexus SWith the announcement today of Google Wallet, NFC (Near Field Communication) has come to the masses in the United States.  While the new service is currently limited to the Nexus S on Sprint, it will eventually roll out to more devices and carriers, and Google estimates that within a short amount of time, 50 percent of all smartphones in the market, a number that works out to a 150 million devices, will include NFC technology.

The question is, just because it’s there, will consumers actually bother using it?  From my first glance at the product, yes.

If Google Wallet was going to be strictly about using your credit cards, I think it might have had a tougher road to go as people like having a physical card to hold on to: It feels more secure, you know where it is and you know how it’s being used.  That being said, people feel exactly the opposite about coupons and loyalty cards.  Although those items benefit the consumer, they can be a bit of a pain to remember to use all of the time.  Personally, I’m a big believer in loyalty programs, and I belong to every one I can, but even I find it a hassle to carry all of my cards with me, so I’ve already gone virtual with most of them via an app, and even then they are a pain as a clerk has to scan the barcode on your screen.  Let me just place my phone on a reader and it’s all done automatically … sign me up.

The biggest problem that could hold this back is Google said multiple times today that this will replace the traditional wallet.  While that would be a dream come true, until the technology reaches more merchants, it simply won’t happen.  While the company has partnered up some very big name brands already such as Subway, Macy’s, Walgreens and so on, where are the McDonald’s and Walmarts of the world?  Without some of the biggest chains around not in the system, people will still think of their traditional wallet or purse first in most cases.  For this to succeed, getting all of the big names on board is essential, but when you think of the potential amount of capital needed to outfit every checkout counter in just one Walmart with these readers, it’s not something the discount store is going to race to do.

Google Wallet has a ton of potential, and I can’t wait to give it a spin, but you almost have to wonder if it didn’t come about a little too early in the lifecycle of NFC.  The technology is still in its infancy in most locations, and adoption is going to take some time; I’ll be curious to see if Google has enough patience to wait out that happening.  My feeling is that they will as with every merchant that joins, that many more people who frequent that store will want to start using the technology.  It’s going to be a matter of who blinks first, the merchants or Google.  My suspicion is that by the time this gets its full launch later in the summer, the number of places accepting this form of payment will have already increased.

As for me, I’ve signed up to be notified as soon as I can download this to my Nexus S, and my loyalty cards are waiting to be entered.

What do you think?  As a consumer, do you care about the potential of NFC technology?  Will you give Google Wallet a try?

 


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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