In a post to the Google Commerce Blog today, Peter Hazlehurst, the Director of Product Management for Google Wallet, announced that Wallet will now be available to anyone running Android 2.3 or higher. In addition, Google has made it possible to load loyalty cards into Wallet, so that users can just scan their smartphone at checkout, rather than carry around half a dozen different cards.
Google has also removed the requirement for phones to have NFC capabilities in order to use Wallet. That’s significant if the company has any sort of aims toward cross-platform expansion, since Apple has staunchly avoided adding any sort of NFC tech to the iPhone, instead opting to use software to turn Bluetooth and wi-fi into AirDrop, which serves a similar purpose.
Paying with NFC still isn’t available on a number of NFC-enabled phones from T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T, because those companies are backing their own Isis NFC payment app.
This move puts Google into direct competition with PayPal, Square and others in the mobile payment space as the company continues to seek a chunk of the money-transferring market. Google is currently working to roll out the ability to send money through Gmail, and it would seem that they hope to leverage that capability to drive adoption of their mobile product.
Blair Hanley Frank is a technology journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has also worked for Macworld, PCWorld and TechHive. He can be found on Twitter @belril.