Google recently launched (do they ever stop?) their Google Wallet system and app.
The app allows you to store your credit card (see below for further details) information on your phone and then use your phone to make payments in store (if the store has a PayPass POS terminal). All you have to do is tap your phone onto the POS terminal, enter your pin and your phone will send your payment details through the secure system, it also allows you to view special offers and loyalty information available at the store. The app security uses “secure underlying technology” and PIN number approval to make the payment, similar to a standard card transaction.
Google wallet online function (available worldwide) offers PayPal functionality. Where a website has the Google checkout or Google buy option you click on the link, sign into your account and approve the payment, nothing new there. It is a nice additional feature, if you have the wallet app on your phone, you by default have the account for online use also, so you can either sign up for the app version or separately for the online version, whichever suits your needs / hardware.
Speaking of hardware, this is where the more and more frequent Google limitations come into play, the app is currently only available for Nexus S 4G on the Sprint® network, also it only currently supports “Citi® PayPass™ eligible MasterCard® credit cards and the Google Prepaid Card.” If you happen to be American and already have a Citi® MasterCard® you can use this PayPass checker to see if your account is already set up to use the system.
More information on the security features can be found here.
In review, Google wallet for mobile is currently of no use to the UK market and will not be for quite some time, there are very few stores which even have POS terminals for the contactless payment system which was introduced more than 2 years ago. Until this sector picks up and Google sort out further card partnerships there is no point in using the mobile app (not that anyone in the UK can have access to the Sprint® network). The online wallet is nothing more than a PayPal system with the limitation of Google wallet not being as well known so there are less stores that offer the ability to buy with Google checkout.
If it were available right now everywhere in this country, I am unsure on its day to day usefulness, as I recall when I go to a garage I am told to turn my phone off while I am on the forecourt, and when I go inside to pay, I have to turn my phone on, unlock it and then proceed to make payment entering my PIN for Google wallet. Also what if I need cash back? this is not mentioned by Google, maybe this is additional functionality that could be investigated.
All this having been said I can certainly see the potential in this system, no need to carry around my stuffed wallet, when available on devices such as the iPhone you can remote lock your phone if stolen and the security features of the wallet application its self: resetting card details, removing transactions details, all secure data is stored on a separate microchip (Secure Element) and the fact that any attempt to access your details (say from someone trying to read the card data) requires approval by entering your Google wallet PIN.