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Google Wallet is smartphone software developed for Google Android phones and designed to replace credit card processing. Google Wallet technology allows a user to make a payment by tapping a smartphone and entering a four-digit security code during checkout. Google Wallet also includes SingleTap capabilities, in which the Wallet software stores a user’s digital coupons, loyalty points and Groupon-style deals. This information facilitates transactions, discounts and reward point accumulation with a single tap of a phone at a Near Field Communication (NFC) reader.
Although still in its early stages, Google Wallet technology is expected to extend throughout the retail market over the next few years. In addition, Google Wallet will be compatible with all Google Android phones and all major credit cards.
Version 1.0 of Google Wallet was released in 2011. This initial software version runs only on the Google Nexus S - one of the few smartphones with the required NFC chip.
Google partnered with MasterCard, paving the way for Google Wallet 1.0 to impersonate the Citibank MasterCard, but Google expects the technology to work with all major credit cards in the future. Google Wallet is accepted by more than 150,000 retailers in the U.S. and 230,000 overseas. In fact, Europeans and Asians routinely use smartphone technology for payment processing.
A Google Wallet user is required to set up a four-digit PIN, which must be entered prior to purchase. Although this reduces the convenience of SingleTap technology, Google firmly believes the PIN is an essential security measure that prevents unauthorized purchases in the event that a phone is lost or stolen.
Google Wallet stores a user’s credit card information in an encrypted format on a smartphone computer chip that is known as the Secure Element. This chip is separated from the phone’s memory and only accessible by Secure Element programs. This system protects a user’s credit card information as it is transferred from the phone to the NFC reader. To prevent credit card skimming, the NFC chip is completely deactivated when the phone’s display screen is off.