Google announced an app and a number of partnerships that could help it become a key gatekeeper in mobile electronic payments—a space that many expect to boom over the next few years.
Google Wallet, announced today at an event in New York, is a app that lets users tap their smart-phone in stores to pay for purchases using near-field communication (NFC) technology—but only after they've entered their credit or debit card details. A related product called Google Offers will let users send coupons to their virtual wallets, via a Google search, for instance, or an advertising billboard using NFC.
Ubiquitous and increasingly sophisticated smart phones make mobile payments possible, and many companies are vying to play a role in the development of the underlying technology. Last November, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile announced a similar mobile payments platform called Isis, and recently they revealed plans to partner with Visa and MasterCard.
Several startup companies are also jostling for a place in the market. Among them is Square, which provides technology that lets smart phones take credit-card payments. Apple, meanwhile, is rumored to be working on a NFC payments system for the iPhone that could be tied to users' iTunes accounts.
"Your phone will be your wallet. Just tap, pay, and save," said Stephanie Tilenius, Google's vice president of commerce, at the New York announcement.