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.
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