Google is taking another swing at the mobile payment market by partnering with three of the major U.S. wireless carriers to expand the reach of its Google Wallet mobile payment app.
Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have all agreed to pre-install Google Wallet on Android devices they sell starting later this year. The deal will put Google’s contactless payment system at smartphone users’ fingertips as soon as they start up a new device. That’s good news for Google Wallet, which allows users of NFC-enabled smartphones to pay for goods at certain retail outlets just by tapping their handset on an enabled card reader.
Google Wallet can also be used to store loyalty cards and gift certificates, as well as allow users to send and receive money from one another, much like apps including Venmo or Square Cash.
The system itself has been around for several years, but never saw widespread adoption, in part because many retailers didn’t have payment terminals configured for use with the technology. This partnership will help more people get started with Wallet right away, which could translate into greater adoption overall.
In addition, Google has acquired the technology behind Softcard, a mobile payments company formerly known as Isis Wallet started by the three carriers. For right now, Softcard users can still tap and pay using that company’s app. More details about the future of its technology will be available “in the coming weeks.”
That deal clears a major hurdle for Wallet’s adoption: carriers were unwilling to push Google’s mobile payment solution while they were developing their own. That said, with Apple Pay taking off, the big players have an incentive to team up and compete against it.
The news comes after Apple has seen wild success from Apple Pay, its own NFC-powered mobile payment technology. The rising tide of Apple’s system may lift Google’s boat as well, since both technologies rely on point of sale systems that support tap to pay. As more retailers move to support Apple Pay, Google Wallet can be used more broadly.