Simple and focused Google Wallet, and what we really want

Google Wallet officially rolled out this week to Android users just two months after it was announced at I/O 2022. It represents a new focus for Android mobile payments, and it’s great, if only because it’s unlike the “GPay” that preceded it.

To say Google’s mobile payment strategy has been chaotic is an understatement.

Over the past decade, we’ve gone from Google Wallet to Android Pay to Google Pay in two different apps to a horrible version of Google Pay in one app and a separate “app” built into Google Play Services, and now, finally, Google Wallet iterate. But it’s still Google Pay, too. The other GPay app is still around.

Well, it’s still a bit confusing, but it’s better now I promise!

Google Wallet is not the culmination of that rollercoaster of indecision, but of the apparent failure that was bringing “GPay” to the global market. This version of Google Pay is built on top of “Tez”, a version of Google Pay that was built in India to huge success (and that doesn’t change). But the ambitious ideas that GPay had tried to bring to other markets were put on hold, and therefore shelved due to delays, overly confusing application layout, and managerial confusion.

GPay wanted to do it all. mobile payments. Peer-to-peer payments. Cashback and rewards. Manage your budget. At some point, it was going to become a literal bank account.

There was quite a bit of excitement about GPay prior to its launch, because the previous Google Pay had been largely deprecated for a while beforehand. It looks like Google was interfering, but it didn’t touch the landing. The aforementioned feature delays, changing to an account based on a phone number, and other issues undermine the launch process. In fact, that wasn’t what most people actually wanted, and frankly, I’d be shocked if anything beyond the peer-to-peer payments feature continued beyond the next couple of years.

On the other hand, Google Wallet is a more focused idea.

Wallet wants nothing more than to replace your physical wallet. This means managing NFC-enabled mobile payments, loyalty cards and tickets, keeping public transit information and gift cards, and ultimately, carrying your own ID card/driver’s license.

While this is still a somewhat ambitious goal, it is one that is highly achievable. Supporting NFC card payment setup has been around for years, and loyalty cards/cards have been around for a while as well. With Google Wallet, accessing these features is made easier for everyone. The app gives users consistent access through downloading on Play Store and home screen icon. Press, and you have your cards and cards. No fuss. It just works.

And access is a key point here, too.

It’s been relatively easy to access all the things Wallet has been on Pixel phones for a while and all in one place. Tap a shortcut on the lock screen or quick settings — or the short-lived power button shortcut, RIP — and all your cards and passes are just a click away. But are you trying to get the same information on your Samsung phone? There was no clear path. GPay was the most direct route, but it wasn’t clear or confirmed until recently.

The foundation is largely laid for the success of Google Wallet, and it’s not like Google is trying to break new ground. Apple has created a really good Wallet template with its app of the same name.

Really, it’s hard not to say that this is what Google should have been doing from the start.

Right.

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