Google Wallet: Changing the Way You Pay for Things… If You Can Keep Your Phone Charged

I’m pretty jazzed about Google Wallet. For those that have never heard of it, Google Wallet is an app being rolled out by the Big G, beginning with the Sprint Network, that intends to change the way we pay for things by storing your credit cards on your smart phone. It makes use of a nifty near-field communication (NFC) chip that can communicate securely (and wirelessly) with MasterCard PayPass terminals by simply waving or tapping your smart phone on it. Cool.Early reviews have been overwhelmingly positive as early adopters are impressed by how quickly and seamlessly you can pay for goods and services. MasterCard states that there are currently “hundreds of thousands” of PayPass terminals across the United States that support Google Wallet with more to come in 2012.

While NFC is a new technology to US phones, the idea is far from original as Korean and Japanese commuters have been able to pay for public transit fares by waving their phones for years. Still, Google plans to make Wallet a unique and widely used application that will allow you to abandon your leather pocket destroyer forever. Google doesn’t want to stop at credit cards, wanting to eventually allow you to store your passport, driver’s license, and plane tickets in Wallet.

As cool as the Wallet concept is, I think the obvious limitation is the battery life of current smart phones. I can’t seem to keep my Nexus S charged for more than 10 hours at a time, so there is no way I would depend on Google Wallet as my primary means of paying for things. I think the problem is compounded by traveling, where a dead phone could leave you stranded with no way of paying for things or even proving your identity.

Google Wallet is an elegant and interesting solution to storing sensitive materials in easy-to-lose wallets. If you lose your smart phone, your stuff should remain safe so long as you have it password protected. Still, it’s not a practical idea for everyday use and certainly not for traveling. I hope Google continues to develop this idea, but until the hardware can accommodate the app, I’ll probably limit my use to novelty purposes (i.e. impressing girls) only.