Your Android smartphone may soon replace your wallet, at least if Google has anything to say about it. The company is testing a new mobile payment service, called Google Wallet, that could allow you to use your Android phone to make payments from your credit card at participating stores.
Here's what you need to know about Google Wallet.
How Does It Work?
Google Wallet requires a combination of the right hardware and software in order to work. The software is the Android app, called Google Wallet, that will store your credit card info on your smartphone. The hardware is a smartphone equipped with near field communication (NFC) technology, which allows the credit card information to be transmitted to the merchant when you tap your phone on a payment terminal.
Will It Work on All Android Phones?
In short: no. Google Wallet initially will be compatible only with the Google Nexus S 4G from Sprint, which runs Android version 2.3 (required for Google Wallet). But, as Google says, "Over time, we plan on expanding support to more phones."
Will It Work at All Stores?
Initially, Google Wallet will only work at stores that already accept MasterCard PayPass payments. To use Google Wallet, you'll tap your phone at a PayPass terminal in order to make your payment. Google's site lets you search for nearby PayPass locations.
Will It Work With All of My Credit Cards?
Not initially. Google says that, at first, Google Wallet will work with Citi MasterCard and a Google Prepaid Card, which you can fund on your own. Google Wallet also plans to add the ability to store loyalty cards and gift cards.
Is It Secure?
Let's ask Google. " Google Wallet stores your encrypted payment card credentials on a computer chip on your phone called the Secure Element. Think of the Secure Element as a separate computer, capable of running programs and storing data. The Secure Element is separate from your Android phone's memory. The chip is designed to only allow trusted programs on the Secure Element itself to access the payment credentials stored therein."
GigaOm also reports that, "The financial information will be placed on a secure chip on the phone that will self destruct if tampered with. Google can wipe financial information from phones remotely in the event a phone is lost."
To use Google Wallet, you'll need to create a PIN that must be entered before you make a purchase. If you choose a secure PIN, you'll improve the security of Google Wallet.
When Will It Be Available?
Google hasn't announced a launch date for Google Wallet, saying only that they "plan to release it soon." You can sign up to be notified of a launch date on Google's Web site.