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Google Wallet client lands on iOS, missing a key feature

Marco Tabini | Sept. 20, 2013
Google's Wallet service has arrived on iOS with a native app that is well-designed, but ultimately only mildly useful.

Even more useful is the fact that you can actually send money to your contacts—provided, that is, that they also have a Google Wallet account. This process requires providing a rather significant number of personal details (including part of your social security number) due to financial regulations, but it could come in handy for things like quickly pooling money to pay for a dinner, or splitting the cost of a gift.

Here, there, and everywhere
Another interesting feature of the Wallet app is its ability to show you special offers from local merchants. By using your location, the app can advise you of any deals that are available at nearby stores, giving you a chance to save some money—and, presumably, giving Google a chance to charge those store for the privilege of pitching their products to you.

The availability of special offers depends, of course, on whether any participating merchants exist in your area, which means that its utility may be limited, particularly considering that the Wallet service itself has, so far, enjoyed limited popularity.

Notably, the only way to turn off this feature is to actually pop into the Settings app and prevent the Wallet client from accessing Location Services.

A good start
Google has built a strong set of security features around the Wallet app. Access to the software is protected by a PIN number, and—because you're syncing against your online Google account—you can disable the app on a stolen device directly from the Web.

Still, I would hesitate to use it as a central repository for all my credit cards. Without support for instant point-of-sale payments, doing so strikes me as just one more way to potentially expose my financial detail to an attacker without getting any significant benefit in return.

And, speaking of point-of-sale purchases, it's a little odd that the Google simply decided to give up on this functionality. After all, not all Android phones support NFC, and there are viable alternatives, such as the barcodes that Starbucks uses to process payments through its iPhone app.

As a result, Wallet's only really useful feature is its ability to store your loyalty programs and synchronize them across multiple devices (and the Web). This is not a small thing, mind you, particularly if you consider that the process of registering all your cards inside the app is simple and very well designed. But it's a far cry from the all-encompassing payment solution that Google Wallet was supposed to be, which seems to be as elusive as ever.

 

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