The idea with check-ins is that some businesses offer smartphone users special deals for using location-based services like Foursquare. Google Offers will include check-in capabilities too, so users will be able to walk into a Best Buy (BBY), for example, “check in” and share that information on social networks like Twitter and Facebook, and collect a reward such as a discount if one is offered. It can all happen automatically.
From Google’s demo, we can see that Offers will allow users to search for coupons and sales and save them to Google Wallet to use later. A coupon offer for Subway, for example, showed up in email during the demo – and it was saved quickly and easily to Wallet.
Another way users can receive coupons through Offers is from advertisements. During the press conference, a coupon was received directly from an NFC-enabled marketing poster. The poster advertised a deal and had a Google Wallet icon on it, and by tapping the smartphone against the icon, the coupon was automatically passed into Google Wallet.
In need of a new phone
Unfortunately, there are only two Android smartphones that are currently available that include NFC technology: Samsung’s (005930.KS) Google Nexus S and the Nokia (NOK) Astound. And from what we can tell right now, there won’t be upgrades to make older smartphones compatible with NFC technology, and therefore, with Google Wallet.
The Nexus S and Astound actually have NFC chips built in, so it’s physical hardware that other smartphones lack (and only the Nexus S 4G from Sprint will be supported at launch – sorry, T-Mobile customers). Future Android phones will all be NFC-enabled, though, and Google says its NXP PN65 chip, found in the Nexus S, is highly secure. The company is taking security with Google Wallet very seriously, it said during the event.
In fact, we heard a little bit about security provisions during the presentation. For instance, no card that could result in theft will ever be fully displayed on the smartphone’s screen when you use Google Wallet, which should help eliminate any theft issues from someone peeking over your shoulder.
Wallet will also include a locking feature that allows users to add a PIN code so the platform can’t be access by others if they happen to pick up your phone, and an encryption to keep hackers from plucking the signal out of the air. The PN65 chip stays switched off until Wallet is activated, so it can’t be hacked into over the air when users are just going about daily life.
Losing a phone isn’t like losing a real wallet with Google Wallet, either. All the cards are stored on the secure internal chip, so they can only be accessed with the proper PIN code. Google also has the ability to wipe cards remotely if a phone is stolen, and while the company thinks the security on the platform is pretty strong, merchants who prefer a physical signature from the buyer using Google Wallet can still request one.
There’s a whole bunch more information on Google Wallet and stores that will accept the service at the company’s new info site, google.com/wallet. Because the service is compatible with PayPass, another tap-to-pay service, it should work with lots of retailers right at launch this summer. The Wallet site allows users to plug in their zip codes to see nearby stores that accept Google Wallet payments, and there’s a big list of companies and retailers that are already involved.
Perhaps best of all, Google isn’t closing off the Wallet service to just Android phones; any other companies who are willing to partner with Google can use the service, keeping it open to new businesses and even to other smartphone manufacturers. All it takes is a working NFC chip in a device. Google is also looking to expand the service in Europe and Asia, and is in talks with banks and credit companies there, as well.