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Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Is Google Wallet actually more convenient?

Like many, I was fascinated and in awe of Google Wallet after hearing about it.  I've been talking about the impact of this kind of technology on banks for some time now - and now its actually happening, fantastic!  I really want this technology - it seems to make the whole process of paying so much simpler, and the idea of consolidating all my credit, debit, loyalty cards into my phone is brilliant.  My bulging wallet really ruins the cut of me suit, so any chance to ditch that and just carry a phone sounds ideal!

So, I thought I'd look into how it works in a bit more detail and really get to understand it.  What I've found out makes me stop and think - I'm not actually so sure this is the nirvana it appears at first glance.

For security reasons, Google Wallet needs to be unlocked prior to a transaction.  Normally it is locked and you need to enter a PIN-code to unlock it.  The wallet has a timeout value, so after unlocking it will automatically lock again after a set number of minutes.  When the wallet is unlocked the NFC antenna is turned off, ensuring there is no risk of dark forces hacking your phone - but equally when locked you can't "wave and pay".

This all sounds great until you start to think about what you do to use your funky e-wallet.  I'm at the till in John Lewis and want to buy a new pair of trousers.  This is what I need to do:

  1. Take my phone out and turn it on.
  2. Enter my phone's password to unlock it.
  3. Find the Google Wallet application and launch it.
  4. Enter my Google Wallet PIN code to unlock the wallet.
  5. Wave my phone on the NFC terminal.
  6. This bit isn't entirely clear, but certainly in Google's official demo they show me then signing for the transaction.  This was a US-centric scenario, with the electronic signing now popular over there.  Presumably in the UK I would enter my PIN code on the local terminal instead - but this isn't clear just yet as its not available in the UK.
It seems to me this series of steps is somewhat clumsy - contrary to the arty youtube videos of people seamlessly waving phones around, I actually have to complete a set of somewhat clumsy steps, in the process entering 2 or possibly 3 security codes.  I'm sure I could manage this, but it feels MORE clumsy than using my plastic card.  I'm pretty sure my parents couldn't be bothered and would get flustered at the point-of-sale.  If there was a long q, maybe I would get flustered pressing all the right buttons.  I think, at this point, I remain to be convinced.  I love the idea, but is it all just a bit too clumsy to catch-on?  I can't help but feel the end-to-end process needs streamlining - and until it is, this technology will be seen by consumers as "nice" but "too techy to use".  It will be interesting to see how it develops......

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