From its $1.9 billion New York outpost in Chelsea, Google just made Steve Jobs a very unhappy man. After much speculation and even a few press leaks, the company announced that it's field-testing Google Wallet, an app that let's you use your phone to tap, pay, and get discounts rather than pulling out a credit card or cash. This means consumers will be hearing a lot more about the horribly named but awesomely futuristic science of near-field communications, which lets mobile devices beam and receive information from mere inches away. If you didn't think Google was sounding just a smidge Big Brother-y before, allow them to convince you:
You'll be able to store your credit cards, offers, loyalty cards and gift cards, but without the bulk. When you tap to pay, your phone will also automatically redeem offers and earn loyalty points for you. Someday, even things like boarding passes, tickets, ID and keys could be stored in Google Wallet.
However, Google also assured skeptics that there are a number of security measures, including a phone lock, a Google pin, credit card information encryption, and never displaying your full credit card number. Initial tests will begin this summer in New York, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon, at stores like Macy's, Subway, and Walgreens.
The tech battle to turn your phone into a wallet is just getting started, though, especially as the winner will likely be the one to get the most adoption. Right now, only Nexus S 4G phones on Sprint have the NFC chips to work with Google Wallet. Apple's plan to get in on the game was delayed when it was announced that the iPhone 5 would be shipping without an NFC chip. (Fifty percent of smartphones will have them by 2014.) But Twitter tech demigod Jack Dorsey hopes to beat them all. Earlier this week, his start-up Square released a free service in the Apple and Google app stores that lets you pay without credit card or cash once you sign up with a merchant — all without using the near-field chip. He launched Monday with 50 coffee shops around the country. But we'll probably wait until Dorsey pulls a Foursquare and starts adding bars to the list.
Coming soon: make your phone your wallet [Official Google Blog]
Google Unveils Wallet And Offers: An Open Platform For Mobile Payments [TechCrunch]
Earlier: Nobody Puts Steve Jobs’s Mobile Payment System in the Corner