Google Wallet has been a player in the mobile payments game for quite a while, launching way back in May 2011 on Sprint's Nexus S 4G. The app hasn't gained a ton of traction since then, but Google today announced a new update to Wallet that greatly expands its availability and could finally help its adoption to grow.
Over on the Google Commerce Blog, it's been announced that a new version of the Google Wallet app is rolling out this week to all Android phones on version 2.3 Gingerbread or higher. The new app allows users to send money to any friend in the U.S. that's over 18 and has an email address, similar to the feature that Google added to Gmail earlier this year. Users can also store loyalty cards inside of the app as well as offers that they've received from any other Google app.
Just as before, the new Google Wallet app supports in-store, online and mobile purchases. Anyone that owns one of the 29 NFC-enabled handsets that support Wallet can use their phone to tap and pay in stores with compatible payment terminals. Google promises that more NFC-capable devices are coming soon. Meanwhile, other users and take advantage of Wallet to make online purchases through websites, apps and the Google Play Store.
It's also worth noting that according to AllThingsD, this new Google Wallet app will be made available to AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon customers. Wallet is currently only supported by Sprint and a handful of smaller U.S. operators, something that's likely held back Wallet's adoption rate. Unfortunately, it's said that AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon subscribers will not be able to use Google Wallet to make in-store payments using NFC.
Overall this looks like a pretty major update to Google Wallet. It's good to see that the app is finally gaining support for a wider base of Android phones, and while the number of devices that can make NFC payments is still rather limited, at least more users will now have the option of checking out the Wallet app and learning more about mobile payments.
As for the non-Android crowd, AllThingsD asked Google if it plans to bring Wallet to iOS now that it doesn't require an NFC-enabled handset. The company is playing things close to its chest, though, saying only that it would like to bring Wallet to all smartphone owners that it's "working to do that as soon as possible." While we wait for Google to do its thing, you Android folk can check out the refreshed Wallet app at the Google Play link below.