Google Taps Sprint for Tap-to-Pay
Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and a gaggle of its partners took the stage at a New York event Thursday morning to unveil the Mobile Wallet and Offers, a Near-Field Communications (NFC)-based payments and couponing service that will first run on Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s Android-based Nexus S. (See Sprint & Google Team on Mobile Wallet.)
Offers is a loyalty and mobile couponing service that could give GroupOn a run for its money. It lets users redeem local offers with the tap of their smartphone. Likewise, Google Wallet lets consumers pay automatically through MasterCard PayPass from Google partner Citibank , or with a prepaid cards, at more than 20,000 retail merchants, including American Eagle, Walgreens, Subway and Macy's.
Google also touted the security of the new service, which fires up NFC when the Nexus S screen is on but requires the Google Wallet app to run the secure wallet service. The NFC chip is disabled when the screen is off.
Google Wallet and Offers are being tested in New York and San Francisco, with an official launch planned for the summer. New partners and new services, like digital receipts, will be added as the rollout continues.
Why this matters
Sprint may have looked like the odd man out for not participating in Isis, but it's now looking like the smartest carrier as it has lined up a powerful ally in Google. (See Sprint Stakes Its mCommerce Claim, US Carriers Combine Mobile Wallets and Carriers Can't Take the Credit.)
Google VP of Payments Osama Bedier stressed that Google is all about being open, so it's open to new partners -- credit cards, retailers, OEMs and potentially carriers. Sprint is, too, as its VP of product development, Fared Adib, explained at the event. He said the carrier's role should be to enable mobile experiences, while dictating those experiences is best left to consumer-facing brands like Google's partners CitiBank, MasterCard and FirstData.
Sprint will continue to work with its OEM partners to bring NFC to more handsets. Adib specifically named Samsung Corp. , High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498) and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) as working on the technology.
The open philosophy is, indeed, proving to be the best route to helping NFC take off. It's a complicated ecosystem with a number of competing interests involved, and it's not one carriers can dominate on their own. Partnerships will be key, and a partner like Google gives Sprint a definite head start.
Read up on NFC's tap-and-pay revolution below:
- O2 Names Mobile Wallet Partners
- Operators Vie for SIM-Based NFC Control
- Here Come the NFC Phones
- Isis Heads to Salt Lake City
- US Operators Partner Up for M-Banking
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile