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Google Wallet lands on select phones

By Claes Bell ·
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Posted: 11 am ET

Sick of carrying around actual plastic debit cards from your bank? Can't wait to join the brave new world of smartphone-based point-of-sale payments? This is your week.

Google began uploading its new Google Wallet app to Sprint Nexus S phones, which run the company's Android operating system. The app will allow Nexus S owners to connect their Mastercard and Visa-based debit card accounts to their smartphones.

From there, all the user has to do is mosey on up to the register, activate the app, enter in a PIN, select the payment type and then tap the phone against the little "PayPass" or "payWave" pad built into the debit terminal. The purchase will then be charged to whatever account you selected, and you'll be on your way.

If you're wondering why your Android phone isn't included in the rollout, it's because a smartphone will need to incorporate specific hardware elements to keep the payment information in the Google Wallet app secure. From the Google Wallet website:

Google Wallet stores your encrypted payment card credentials on a computer chip on your phone called the Secure Element. Think of the Secure Element as a separate computer, capable of running programs and storing data. The Secure Element is separate from your Android phone's memory. The chip is designed to only allow trusted programs on the Secure Element itself to access the payment credentials stored therein.

Such hardware may help prevent thieves from accessing your payment information, but using the service will still likely mean a lost smartphone will be even more of a nightmare than before:

Even though the Google Wallet PIN and Secure Element protect your payment card information, you should still call your issuing banks to cancel your cards.

So if I leave my phone somewhere, not only do I lose any not-backed-up contacts, information and pictures, but I also get to call all my card providers? Sounds like fun.

That being said, I think this technology has a lot of potential to really do some great things for consumers. The app could not only replace the brick of plastic cards you're carrying around in your wallet now, but also clipped or printed coupons and loyalty cards, since Google Wallet receives offers from retailers and has the capability to supply loyalty card information the same way it does debit card information.

As someone who's probably going to suffer from "fat wallet syndrome" at some point later in life because of my propensity for hanging on to every loyalty card and discount card I can, the app sounds pretty exciting.

What do you think? Would you use Google Wallet, or does the idea of giving your phone the power to make purchases make you nervous?

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