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A Google Wallet Filled With Ennui

Written on
May 27, 2011 
Author
Gavin Dunaway  |

ADOTAS – Major product releases have become so anticlimactic. It was obvious that Google was building a mobile commerce platform around near-field communication technology since the introduction of the Nexus S smartphone with NFC hardware. Then-CEO Eric Schmidt all but said mobile commerce was Google’s chief focus for 2011.

Then after weeks and weeks of hype, tech blogs speculating who was partnering with Google, hints dropped at various conferences… Enter Google Wallet, an NFC-powered smartphone payment app developed with Citi, Mastercard and Sprint. You’ll be able to make purchases at 300,000 nationwide MasterCard PayPass locations (you’ve likely seen them at gas stations and fast-food chains), but at first only in New York and San Francisco. If you don’t have a Google Nexus S (which Sprint can offer you a good deal on), there’s a sticker you can place on the back of your smartphone to take advantage of some Google Wallet features.

Yay.

Yes, you can pay for stuff with a wave of your phone. Kind of like one of those “You Will” AT&T commercials from 15 years back. Kind of like that iPhone commercial in which they show off how you can pay for coffee with the Starbucks app. But it’s still really limited – I’m not going to throw my credit cards into the shredder just yet.

Maybe my ennui at this announcement is stemmed in not being a gadget junkie – well, I am one if it a) has six strings and pickups; b) amplifies sound using vacuum tubes; or c) is a little box that makes the two other items sound awesome. However, this was an innovation I – and I think most of the world – expected for some time. Oh – we can do that now. Cool, back to TMZ.

Google can thump its chest and say, “We got there first!” But it kinda didn’t…

Anyway, we’re concerned with the marketing element, which believe it or not is one of the coolest features. So Google Wallet will be able to incorporate coupons from all kinds of sources. You’ll be able to scan QR codes off of posters and billboards and Google Wallet will credit them automatically when you make a purchase.

It will be a serious boon for Google’s local advertising efforts, though it’s curious whether coupons from other resources (Groupon or location-based mobile social networks) will be integrated… Especially since Google has its own coupon service.

Goodness knows why Google “launched” Offers a few weeks ago only to have its website sit there and do nothing. Maybe the company was trying to warm up the media’s anticipation for the Wallet announcement, but it merely looked like Google didn’t actually have it’s “Groupon killer” ready, which was sort of the case. Google Offers will present a daily deal that can be exercised through Google Wallet.

There’s also the data element. Google Wallet will probably be tied to your Google profile (that’s the only way to sign up for Google Offers). Theoretically your purchase data could be tied back and used to deliver targeted advertising and coupons. Of course, we hope Google makes it very clear how to opt out of this lest they get trampled under foot by more claims of privacy violations.

Although, check this out from the FAQ: “Google Wallet does not currently receive data about what products you purchase with it. Google Wallet does record (locally on the phone) the time of an initiated transaction and which credential was used. Google Wallet also gives you the option to turn on a feature to record your location at the time of purchase.”

Google isn’t taking a cut of the transactional fee and isn’t getting paid a fee by the banks (even the app itself is free), so how is this worthwhile for Big G? Offers can’t be bringing in all the cash… Or can it? Did Google decide the privacy hazards weren’t worth using the purchase and activity data to target?

Oh, there is one other cool thing – the NFC chip apparently self-destructs if tampered with. How very Mission: Impossible – does a whiff of smoke come out of the headphone jack?





Gavin Dunaway is Editor, U.S. at AdMonsters, a leading trade publication, event producer and service provider for the online advertising industry. Previously, he had been Senior Editor of Adotas, where he arrived after years of ping-ponging around various industry publications. This Washington, D.C. native and George Mason University graduate also enjoys playing electric guitar so loud that the walls shake.

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