Google Launches Wallet, Impact Still Limited

Google’s near field communications payment system, Google Wallet, has officially launched. While Google’s compatible devices and available payment options remain limited, Google has indicated that more options are on their way.

The Limited Launch

Google Wallet NFC Payment MachineImage Credit: GigaOM

While Google has been testing this product extensively since May, select users will now be able to use Google Wallet to make payments. Of course, the restriction that limits the launch to “select users” has nothing to do with a phase of testing. Rather, Google’s product has only one compatible device (The Nexus S 45) and one credit card that connects with the app (Citi MasterCard).

However, Google also had some good news: They would be making a Google prepaid card available for use with Google Wallet. Users can fill this card by using any other standard credit card. Further, according to the Google Blog post announcing the launch, “Visa, Discover and American Express have made available their NFC specifications that could enable their cards to be added to future versions of Google Wallet.”

On the device front, Google’s anticipated Nexus Prime should give Wallet users more breathing room, while device manufacturers may contribute their own alternatives in the near future.

Here’s a video giving further details on the launch and the Google Wallet service:

Pre-Launch Rumors

When Google discussed Wallet back in May, they didn’t leave out too many details: We knew what the product was (a “tap and pay” payment system integrated with Google Offers), what some of its limitations would be (such as the small handful of starting partners), and we knew that it would be released “by the end of Summer.” The big news here, though, is the addition of the Google prepaid card and the announcement that Visa, Discover, and AMEX had opened up their specifications, neither of which were anticipated.

That, however, was about the limit to surprising content. Thanks to a leaked document and a teaser video (check it out below), the industry was aware that Google’s launch would take place on the 19th. And even that’s not too far from what analysts predicted for Google’s timeline; most analysts interpreted “end of Summer” to mean on or around September 1.

The September 19 launch coincides with the commencement of the NFC World Congress.

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