Well, we knew it was a possibility, and given Google Wallet's painfully slow adoption rate (by carriers and payment processors), rumors today from NFCTimes that the service's sole remaining partner Sprint is coming up with an alternative aren't exactly surprising.

NFCTimes says the service will be called "Touch," and will utilize a "secure element" system like Wallet (a physical chip) in order to securely process mobile payments. Likely by necessity, this would mean the end of support for Google Wallet on Sprint handsets released after the launch of the new "Touch" service. Two embedded payment systems would be confusing to average consumers, and Sprint will have much more control over its own service (as well as revenue from it), as compared to no control with Google Wallet - undoubtedly something it wants.

Carriers haven't been willing to adopt Wallet, basically, for those exact reasons - lack of control, and lack of financial incentive.

As you probably know, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon are all heavily invested in the ISIS mobile payment platform, while Sprint has remained the lone holdout with Wallet. Unfortunately, Wallet simply hasn't lived up to expectations. Payment processor support remains limited to MasterCard, with word on VISA and AMEX compatibility basically having gone silent. The news of Touch is just another nail in the increasingly inevitable coffin of "Wallet 1.0."

Security concerns plagued Wallet earlier this year (justified or not), and the continued unwillingness of other carriers to implement the service has essentially left it orphaned.

Companies PayPal and Square have begun launching competing services that don't require NFC hardware at all. Google has apparently been considering such a "carrier sidestep" internally, though no announcements about changes in the way which Wallet will work have yet been made. The fact is, Google will have to fundamentally change the way Wallet functions at this point, because there's just no way the carriers will support it now.

Wallet's future likely involves a renewed focus on gaining merchant support, and use of backend processing on Google's servers to ensure payments are secure and authorized. Google's dream of a native, hardware-secured Android mobile payment system has now been all but squashed, and it's going to need some serious reworking in order to get back in the game. It's possible an announcement of just such an overhaul could be coming at Google I/O later this month.


David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Ron Amadeo

    I love Wallet, but it's becoming clear it is so, so, so dead. 

    You can't compete with the carriers on their own networks.

    I wonder what other markets they will decide to lock everyone else out of next?

  • John O’Connor

    Is this not just fan confusion as Fox is a major partner/contributor and Sprint is a major supporter of their programming. i.e. #Touch the series with Kiefer Sutherland?

  • LazarusDark

    Carriers haven't been willing to adopt Wallet, basically, for those exact reasons - lack of control, and lack of financial incentive."
    Boo frickin hoo.
    Doesn't matter. I will never trust my payments to a carrier. They can all do whatever they want, I'm using side-loaded Wallet on my VZW Gnex and its great, just need more merchants to accept Paypass. I think its not the carriers, but lack of Visa support that's hurting Wallet so much. If they could get Visa, I think more retailers would adopt nfc. But I've never known anyone who even had a Mastercard.

    If Wallet dies, I'll be sticking with good ole' credit/debit cards. It will be sad though. Every time I use Wallet it's like "I'm in the Futuuurre".

    • Ron Amadeo

      "I will never trust my payments to a carrier."
      That's an excellent point. Carriers don't have reliable billing now, I can't imagine the mess they'd cause if all of my credit card transactions ran through them.

  • mduran1023

    I think this might actually be a good thing in the long run.

    It's clear that Wallet in its current form is done, but a version that doesn't require carrier stupidity is something I could get behind, and may even help with international adoption.

  • http://www.toysdiva.com Toys Samurai

    Look, blaming the carriers are easy, but looking back, it's painfully clear that Google is really bad at turning concepts into real products.

    • Andrewd86

      Yeah like Android. That will never work... oh wait...

      • Kellic

        Yah because Android is such a coherent product across the board. *rolls eyes*

  • fixxmyhead

    When the hell are they gonna active it on my s2

  • Myjunk

    Sprint is going to start selling square adaptors in store for $9.99 with a $10 credit to your account when you activate

  • Kellic

    So lets count the various ways REAL fragmentation is occurring vs. Apple's interpretation of it.  
    You have the various crap overlays on the various phones that can and does cause problems with developers.  

    You have Markets all over the board from Google to Amazon, to a few others.  

    You have carriers who are telling Google what can and can't show up in the market.  So one carrier can see apps such as tether apps and another can't.  

    You use to have issues with netflix across the various lines of devices.  That has cleared up but various apps still only reside on specific handsets.  

    And now you have Google wallet being bitchslapped by Verizon, Sprint, and I'm not sure about ATT.  Anyone?
    But I can at least load my own freaking ROM.  *facepalms*  I'll NEVER use Apple anything ever again.  But at least Apple has a stable platform.  Yes damned-able walled garden and all, but you don't have this BS from one carrier to another.  Apple gets to say THIS is how our device is.  Deal with it.  Google has made an absolute fraking mess of android from day one and its not getting better.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

    What a moronic move - rather than join a group and try to develop a standard, Sprint is starting its own thing once again. Last time they did that, oh I don't know, WiMax happened, and look where it is now. You can bet "Touch" will suffer from a similar demise.

  • andrew__des_moines

    As massive a failure -- and failure by management to react -- that Wallet has been, I can not understand why the device list was not expanded past the Nexus.  Many, including myself, selected our last generation phones like the GSII in part because they were NFC capable.  Had Google expanded Wallet to the rest of the market that had the hardware, it might have been the egg to spawn the chicken.  I know Google's business model is rightly built to endure a certain amount of project failures (no failure, not enough innovation risk), but not on this level with what was once a leading position on an emerging technology.  The epilogue on this will be interesting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jhdezjr Jorge Lazaro Hernandez

    Thank god since Google Wallet sucks, every since I got my EVO it hasn't worked at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Skywalker.Luke Luke Oliver Vincent Edscorn-Sk

    Ummm you might want to update this as Wallet supports Visa, AMEX, and discover now. Just saying and has for over a week.