Google Wallet
Last Updated: June 9th, 2013

After two years on the market, Google Wallet has failed to gain any kind of meaningful foothold in the mobile payment world. That's the gist of a new report from Bloomberg Businessweek, slamming Google's mobile and NFC payment service as a "money pit" and unlikely to succeed against existing and upcoming competitors. Among the publication's chief complaints are $300 million in investments and acquisitions, and hundreds of developers on staff, all for less than 10 million downloads in the Google Play Store.

cracked wallet

One reason cited for the lack of users is obvious: in the US, Google Wallet's primary target market, Sprint is still the only major carrier that allows users to download the app. Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile have all blocked Wallet, in a move that can in no way be seen as collusion to allow their own joint Isis platform a free kick to the mobile payment goal. A lack of features and a shockingly poor support infrastructure (which we at Android Police have experienced first-hand) don't help the situation.

Google has not publicly stated how much it has spent on Wallet altogether. The investment is mitigated somewhat by the fact that they aren't interested in profits via transaction fees, at least not first and foremost. As Bloomberg points out, the primary point of Google Wallet is to collect data on consumer spending habits, both online and in brick-and-mortar retail stores, then target advertising accordingly. But without people using the app, and using it in high volume, retailers have every reason to continue ignoring the platform. That's a grim prospect for Google's data-gathering aspirations.

Most distressingly, Bloomberg reports that "more than half a dozen people close to the company" have told them that expanded projects designed to get Wallet into the hands of more users have been reconsidered or abandoned. This includes a plan for a tablet-based cashier kiosk designed for brick-and-mortar retailers, similar to an iPad-based system from Square. We've seen at least some external evidence of this: Google cancelled its plans for a physical debit card (which is offered by Wallet's biggest competitor, PayPal, which is expanding even now) and laid off the VP of Wallet last month. They also discontinued the Google Prepaid Card, essentially an NFC debit card loaded through Wallet, last September.

Wallet isn't going anywhere soon; Google will still need a method for users to buy digital content on the Google Play Store. And it's not as if Google has been ignoring Wallet - see the new Amazon-style instant pay API and Gmail's new ability to attach money to emails. But unless Google can find better footing in the rapidly-expanding mobile payment world, it may quickly become obsolete.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • https://twitter.com/#!/doomstang Doomstang

    I've wanted to use wallet, I really have....but when it's "not compatible" with my device(s) for so long, it's kinda tough.

    • Michael Ta

      or not available in many countries.

      • David Allen

        or being blocked by the likes of Verizon....Assholes!

        • z0phi3l

          At least with the Verizon BS, you at least have a choice, leave, but some of the others are real issues

  • sam

    I own a galaxy S4 (flagship phone), and I cannot use google wallet on my phone !!!

    How do you think google wallet will spread then ?!

    Not a lot of people use sprint phones or nexus devices.

    Google should open google wallet to all or most of android phones. This will open wallet to millions of new users

    • Mike

      I'm sure Google would love to open it to more phones if they could.

    • mikeGsays

      You can't use it because you don't know how, not because it can't be done.... I have an AT&T S4 with working Wallet on it, search XDA!

      ALSO, it appears you haven't read the article, Google isn't holding back a wide release of this, the US carriers are.

      • fish1552

        If you do your research, not everyone roots their phone. Those of us who do are in the minority, and even then, the locations we can use it are few and far between.
        The fact is, the other major wireless providers hopefully lose their ass BIG TIME in ISIS and end up having to allow GWallet or some court forces them to allow it to function on their network.
        This is the reason monopoly laws were created in the first place, yet somehow this is allowed???

        • mikeGsays

          I agree with everyone you said, especially with the eminent failure of ISIS I can't wait to enjoy.... BUT, as a friend put it the other day, I'm actually hoping the new iPhone comes with NFC so it will be everywhere! hah

          • fish1552

            True. It would help get the technology in everyone;s hands aand force companies to put the terminals out there. As long as the iPhone doesn't get bundled with ISIS or something that doesn't create a monopoly for one company.
            I highly doubt they would use GWallet though - especially since we know they don't like having users have to install Google Maps in their precious iPhone.

        • s44

          Wallet works everywhere PayPass does, which is a lot of places: every Whole Foods, NYC taxi, most chain drugstores...

          • fish1552

            It does - if you can get it. And it may be great for those living in large cities, but smaller cities and other areas are hard pressed to find one. Around here, there is McDonalds and CVS.
            And the last time I tried to use it at McDonalds, the phone sent the data but their terminal never received it. I tried it three times until I got tired of trying it and just used my debit card.

        • Krzysztof Jozwik


      • Simon Liu

        I had it working, but then google stopped letting me activate new devices on wallet. Every time I update or switch AOSP roms, I lose wallet data. Seems like lots of people on the s3 and note 2 can't activate wallet. Unless it started working again recently.

    • JPB

      Google isn't the one stopping that from happening, the US network providers are.

    • Krzysztof Jozwik

      You should get off a carrier that blocks wallet or buy an unlocked phone if you want wallet. It's like complaining Cabela's doesn't sell nukes because the US doesn't allow them to.

  • skitchbeatz

    My biggest problem as a user is that the app only does payments. It doesn't help me get rid of my wallet (Tickets, loyalty/reward cards, etc). Also, on my nexus 4 the payment success rate is inconsistent.

    • Fadakar

      This. I have so many shitty club cards on my keychain that I'd love to get rid of, yet Google thinks the only way to move forward is via payments.

      I think Apple has it done perfectly with Passbook, and they don't even have NFC. If I log into a CVS/Ralphs/Bevmo/whatever app or mobile website, it should ask to transfer my details to Wallet.

      • mikeGsays

        Or you both could use Keyring and let Wallet continue being as lackluster at it's only job as you say it is - it isn't for me, and I've been using it since the Skyrocket days....


      • https://steamcommunity.com/id/m-p-3 m-p{3}

        I scanned my membership and other cards I don't need that much in my wallet with Lemon Wallet, so at least I have a digital copy with me in case I need to use one of them.

        It won't help with cards I have to swipe with the magnetic stripe, but it definitely reduxed the thickness of my wallet.

      • Krzysztof Jozwik

        You can easily take pictures of said barcodes and show them in the store. What needs to happen for Wallet to take off is NFC readers in stores, but that won't happen because they can't even spare a few cents per hour to give their employees a livable wage without enraging the shareholders.

      • yankeesusa

        Actually my wife tried using passbook and it never worked the way it should. Plus out of the 2 major stores I could use it at only one worked. She ended up selling her iphone and getting the s3.

  • Theratchetnclank

    I'd love to use it here in the uk but the app isn't available.

    • wakaru
      • Russ

        That won't help. You can get it running but transactions fail.

        • Kenny

          I think you still need a US based credit card for it to work.

      • Simon Liu

        All my devices can no longer activate google wallet since like 2 months ago. One day I updated my rom, and my wallet data was wiped and I couldn't reactivate. My dad's AT&T galaxy s3 still works.

        • chinaman

          and 'since like tow months ago' is considered proper english?

          • delta

            what the ...

          • chinaman

            read a few posts above and you would know why.

        • Russ

          Did you go through the proper reset procedure before messing with your ROM? It's possible you've bricked the secure element.

  • A Griffith

    Don't worry about it. As a retailer that's worked with ISIS on a large rollout in their test market, I can assure you they don't have their stuff together either and have far less resources that Google to make it work.

    With new PCI-DSS rules that just went effective recently retailers can reduce their scope for audit by having EMV & NFC capable terminals in 75% of their sites. Companies are going to start chasing that requirement hard which will get the equipment for transactions in stores. It's up to Google to figure out how to convince the ISIS team that a rising tide lifts all boats. Their exposure would be far greater if they allowed additional wallets to run on VZW, TMo, and AT&T.

    I could go on and on about ISIS but I won't. They're just a mess when it comes to integration.

    • http://thedangerbrain.com/ Alfonso Surroca

      Somehow, I expected this, when ISIS started out with a lot of fanfare, but has been essentially silent for like two years now. ISIS started, what, almost 3 years ago now, and there is nothing to show for it but a couple test markets?

      • yankeesusa

        Plus isis is only accepted in like what... 2 states? gwallet is accepted everywhere paypass is accepted. I think google should push more advertisement. The reason they haven't yet has to be their choice. They either are going to shutdown gwallet or have something big up their sleeve. Google is known for that.

    • kay

      C&P (EMV) is many years away in the US market. Google may have been putting their eggs into the Contactless basket but I think the introduction of that physical magstripe card would have helped Wallet succeed.

    • z0phi3l

      I was really impressed when Mom opened a coffee shop in November BOA gave her a swipe terminal that takes NFC right out of the box, and there's no extra fee to use it, just wave your phone over the terminal and Wallet fires right up, haven't seen it anywhere else yet, was hoping it became more common so I could use it more

  • Ramiro Fernandez

    Here's an idea for Google: how about releasing it outside the US? Most major merchants in Australia have contactless terminals, and we're desperate for mobile payments, but bloody Google hasn't released wallet here after two years!

    • Victor Loureiro

      Yes. In other countries, carriers may not have neither the intent not the right to block Wallet from devices. I get the US are the primary target, but if Google goes the other way, they might reach a huge deal of people.

    • jumb

      I would use it if it was available in Australia.

      • Kenny

        Me too.

  • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

    Their loss, it was suppose to come to UK before the Olympics last year and f#!? All happened

  • Zak Taccardi

    What doesn't make sense is...what other mobile payment service is beating out wallet? Nothing has taken hold yet, and Google seems to be leading the pack still, at least in the US

  • Terrell L Washington

    I use wallet all the time. I don't know how they haven't gone big yet. Then again most smartphone users don't know what there phones can do and only get the lastest phone because everyone else has it.

  • Adam Truelove

    This just in: No one installs Google Wallet. The reason: BECAUSE NO ONE CAN!!!

    • Krzysztof Jozwik

      I installed it on my N4, have yet to use it, but would love to.

      • Jonathan Steele

        You can use it in any mastercard paypass machine.

        • z0phi3l

          I'll have to try that sometime, only place I know it will work is at my Mom's coffee shop, bu t then again I don't have to pay for anything there :|

    • Huton Gergö

      Totally agree.

  • https://steamcommunity.com/id/m-p-3 m-p{3}

    Dear Google, canadians are waiting for you.

    • MikeSS

      No dear Google, screw them if they cannot get their acts together. I am sick and tiered of failure after failure. Google should have done his homework before launching wallet in US or any other country. They should have applied to licence to operate like a mini financial institute, have credit cards from various providers ( VISA, Master Card, AMEX, Discovery) and offer then to whoever is qualified, as banks do; or they should have kept their Google Card as they had on the first days of wallet.

      both ways the transactions go through them and they have the info, we leave our wallets at home.

      • Simon Liu

        English plz.

        • MikeSS

          what English, spoken by you or others? what part of it didn't you understand. explain please...

  • Krzysztof Jozwik

    FUD. Google does not mind taking it's time allowing it's products to mature, no shit Bloomberg is upset, they want profits last quarter.

    • Moebius

      Google's handy products are not the problem here, but the low-tech-iPhone world we live in.

      • yankeesusa

        Very true. If iphone had nfc and google wallet worked on it this would not even be a story.

  • samcraig

    Here's a good reason why it's "failing" - I don't know anyone that can install it. Blame the carriers. "This app is incompatible with your AT&T Samsung SAMSUNG-SGH-I727."

  • chris125

    The carriers suck. But wait until the iPhone gets NFC and make an app for IOS and watch it take off

  • Goldenpins

    I've used wallet in trips to NY for gas stations, quicky mart and BP beyond that its not anywhere else.If it was, people would use it.

  • Tim

    I have it on my unsupported Verizon Galaxy Nexus and it works great! I wish this was an option on any smartphone so the technology would spread and be more widely used because it's extremely convenient. ISIS can suck my left nut.

  • Jon Dean

    I have Google wallet on my s3 and use it at some local retailers that accept payment via Nfc (which totals at about 2 retailers :/) I love it but there aren't many uses for it..

  • Moebius

    I live in the US and I have a factory-unlocked Galaxy Nexus on T-Mobile. Although I can freely use Wallet, the availability of NFC payment stations is very rare (in Florida). In some places the stations exist, but they are not functioning. When you ask the never-knowing cashiers, they don't even have a clue what that is. I don't think Wallet is the problem, but the NFC infrastructure.

    • z0phi3l

      I bought my Nexus through T-Mobile, broke and in desperate need of a phone, and Wallet was available and installed from the get go on mine too, T-Mobile is not blocking it for me, I know it wouldn't work once installed on my GS3, but that was a Samsung related issues

    • qpinto

      this is true. i can buy groceries at a handful of publix or use nfc at mcdonalds or pollo tropical. otherwise i cant USE wallet like i want to. its not really google's fault, but more of a retailer paying a little extra for convenience of their customers to utilize a tapping credit card scanner thing.

    • http://picasaweb.google.com/JTHolroyd/TileStoneWork JessSayin

      Same in So Cal. I'm running Cyanogenmod on my T-Mo Galaxy Note and there just aren't any working NFC payment stations.

  • http://www.green-glasses.com Ian Josef Bulock

    I would use this more if there were places to use it at. There are almost zero NFC payment options where I live and Google Wallet is rarely an option to use online.

    Perhaps once merchants actually start accepting these types of payment methods it will gain some traction.

  • fanSte

    Haha! Google, it's your own fault! Here in Holland almost nobody has a stupid credit card!

    So, use Paypal or "on phone bill" payment options!!

    Then you have solved:

    "Google will still need a method for users to buy digital content on the Google Play Store"

  • Lee B

    Every retailer in the UK is now sending out NFC equipped terminals for all renewing or upgrading customers. All the major stores like Starbucks, McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, Tesco's and heck even London Transport now accept NFC payments, yet Google refuses to launch Wallet in the UK. SCANDALOUS!!!

  • Ahmazin

    It use it mainly online. Have used it a McDonald's, but I would love to use it at major retail stores.

  • Paul_Werner

    I've used it a good amount. I'm glad that T-Mobile doesn't block it on the N4. I used it on the N7 before I had the N4 but there are so few stores that support it that I don't get to use it a whole lot. Even the stores that do tend to have terminals and workers that are "broken"... I'm looking at you Walgreens

  • Nick McMurray

    I love Wallet, there's not many places I've found to use it but some of our vending machines at work have ISIS on their card readers. They pick it up and process it just fine =)

    • yankeesusa

      All cvs stores have it, I think walgreens is starting to activate their units that they just installed, all mcdonalds accept it, burdines uses it, all best buy use it and a over 85% of gas stations use it. If walmart and target accepted it then that would cover most places I shope except for my grocery store.

  • Christopher Robert

    l love this app l wish Att Supported it w/o me having to hack it onto my phone

  • John Samuel αΩ

    It certainly was a money pit for me. Remember when they $0'd out everyone's balance and all their money just disappeared? Yea... Glad I was on the forefront of that misadventure.

    • myepicyear

      Oh yeah, and remember how they kept warning everyone beforehand?

  • Devin

    If they allowed people outside of the US to use it, this wouldn't be the case. I would use it daily for buying coffee up here in Canada. I would say 90% of stores that take credit/bank cards have contact-less readers now.

  • bobbutts

    It fixes a problem that doesn't really exist. Swiping a mag card or paying cash is more convenient.

    • yankeesusa

      It may be more convenient to some but not for others. Its about the same. Swiping a card will bring up a debit pin or credit option then you have to enter your pin or sign depending on the amount. When you use googlewallet and unlock it before entering the store all you do is swipe phone, select debit or credit in some cases and that's it. You only sign if its above a certain amount. Plus losing your debit card is worst than losing your phone. Gwallet is locked why your debit card can be used several times before you have chance to report it.

  • Armus

    Here's an idea, everyone stand up to big red and tell them to kiss off for limiting the phones

  • yankeesusa

    I hope they reconsider it and remodify it become more profitable for them. I use gwallet on my note 2 when ever I get a chance.

  • Shoogy

    I would so use google wallet all the time on my phone but Tmobile does not allow it. so what is the use of offering it

  • KidCorporate

    All the more reason for google to get into the mobile network business the same way it's getting to the ISP biz with Fiber and just start putting it to the major networks.

  • christopher3712

    I use it anywhere I can make NFC payments with my [rooted] AT&T Galaxy S4. I'm in amazement as to how Google will allow carriers to block its products. Google themselves can always flex a little Android muscle and block their bloatware in the Android Market.

  • http://robert.aitchison.org raitchison

    Google is partially to blame for this, they could defy the carriers wishes and just release wallet for every compatible device or at the very least shed light on the carrier BS line that they are not "blocking" wallet (in that they are asking Google to block it)