Google Wallet has always been somewhat baffling. Sure, NFC technology is undeniably neat, and mobile payments are certainly going to be more and more how we buy crap.
But Google went all in, really fast, and the result was basically a curiosity you couldn’t use unless you lived in either Manhattan or Mountain View. Why, precisely, Google thinks people want to get rid of their wallets and put their entire financial tool set onto something that can be stolen — and then you’re suddenly without phone AND a wallet — is something that’s never been explained. Not helping is the fact that companies like Verizon will refuse to enable Google Wallet because it might screw up THEIR mobile payments plans.
Nonetheless, Google has bowed to the pretty much inevitable: Google Wallet will now include a physical card that’s actually in your wallet. Although to be fair, the Google Wallet Card might actually make Google Wallet useful.
Essentially it’s just a way to link your Google Wallet account to a physical card. But that actually has a few advantages. First of all, Google is also introducing a “Wallet Balance,” basically a PayPal account, so essentially it’ll be a Google Debit Card. The idea being that you just bring this one card instead of your whole wallet.
If the card gets stolen, cancel the card — apparently Google is taking steps to make this far more painless than canceling a stolen debit or credit card. This does raise a few questions about liability: Is Google subject to federal law on this, which limits liability? If not, what are the rules?
Secondly, the card allows a few other useful ideas. For example, leaked screens show that you can add a transit card to your Google Wallet card. Presumably this thing would also have RFID capability, meaning that in theory, if Google can get enough systems onboard, you’ll have a multi-city transit card.
In short, this might be something you actually use. So, hey, Google’s back to making neat stuff instead of weird stuff!