We heard in March that Google was testing its mobile payments service and now Bloomberg claims that insider sources told them that the Mountain View company could introduce its digital wallet service as early as May 26. Those familiar with Google’s plans, who insisted on anonymity, said it will be launching the service on Sprint phones with NFC chips that will allow for users to make mobile payments entirely via phone. To date, that only includes the Sprint Nexus S, but who knows – maybe Google will be unveiling upgraded Android-Sprint handsets with the capability or at least hint at a roadmap of phones that will be getting the technology.
Google and Sprint have naturally declined to comment, although it is telling that Google has sent out invitations for a press event this week and will stream an announcement on its YouTube channel. And According to AllThingsD, Google will give a hands-on demo of its NFC-enabled Android phones at the D: All Things Digital conference next week.
This can’t come as a total surprise: There have been plenty of rumors about the company’s plans for NFC. But if the reports pan out, Google and Sprint will be the first major mobile players to bring NFC to consumers on a wider scale. There is definitely an NFC race going on and all signs point to a Google finishing first. That said, there will still be some surprises (or at least official revelations) on the 26th.
Who’s going to be involved?
Obviously Google can’t just put NFC chips in its phones and be done with it – because it already did that. The Nexus S was introduced earlier this year with its NFC tag reading ability, which was groundbreaking. Groundbreaking, but just a little too ahead of its time to be useful. Bloomberg’s insiders say VeriFone and ViVoTech (both manufacture credit card readers) will produce hardware and software that will be compatible for the mobile payment system. It’s also very possible MasterCard will have collaborated on the project, as it was rumored to have been. And of course, Sprint’s coming along for the ride.
Where will it work?
The Wall Street Journal’s insiders say retailers including Macy’s, American Eagle, and Subway will have new checkout terminals that will work with the NFC-enabled Android phones. New York and San Francisco are slated to be test cities, as we reported earlier, and reports now also include Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington D.C.
Industry insiders were convinced the next-gen iPhone would include the NFC chip, but reports from the U.K. suggested otherwise. Still, since then we’ve learned that Apple could be introducing the iPhone 4S, a slight upgrade from the iPhone 4, this fall before the iPhone 5. It’s possible the technology will be included in the iPhone 5.
There have also been reports about Isis, a collaboration between AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. The joint venture between the three major carriers wants to implement NFC technology into handsets and introduce the mobile wallet to a variety of communities by mid-2012.
We were excited to watch the events of Google’s announcement on its YouTube channel today, which was sporting a countdown until the press conference. Unfortunately, Google’s being tight-lipped and not giving the public access to the event. The URL originally streaming the likely mobile payment announcement now simply says: “This video is private. Sorry about that.” Hopefully Google restores the video cast, but we’re thinking not given the amount of information that’s already made the rounds about today’s event.