Google Wallet Goes Live On Sprint, Visa/Discover/AmEx Support On The Way

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The TechCrunch Gadgets Webcast Episode 2: Gaming, Movies, And Trackpads

As we predicted yesterday, Google has just announced the official launch of Google Wallet. Google Wallet, if you recall, allows you to pay for products in the real world by tapping your NFC-enabled Android phone against a compatible card reader.

Now, there’s a bit of a catch: even if you’ve got an NFC-enabled Android phone, you might not be able to dive into Wallet just yet. Google is initially launching Wallet exclusively on the Sprint Nexus S, leaving AT&T/T-Mobile/etc. Nexus S owners waiting for their little taste of the future.

Bummed by the limited launch? Don’t be. This somewhat-cautious approach is really the only way they could do it: NFC is still a relatively new technology, with a complicated network of partners, and, most importantly, involves your money. Google is really the first company with the power to move the world towards NFC — but even for them, it’s going to be something of an uphill battle, and they’ll have to take things one small step at a time.

Fortunately, Google also just announced their next small step huge leap: support for Visa, Discover, and American Express cards.

In today’s release, Google Wallet supports just two payment methods: Citi MasterCards, and a Google Pre-paid card which anyone with a credit card can fill and use. With the announcement that they’ve licensed the aforementioned trio above, however, Wallet should evolve to support just about any card you’ve got.

Got a Sprint Nexus S? Ready to get to spending like some crazy time tourist? All you need to do is ensure your handset is turned on. Wallet is being rolled out to hands automatically, so no Marketplace download is necessary. As a nice little bonus, Google will kick down $10 on a Google Pre-paid card to anyone who gives Wallet a try by the end of the year.

I’ve spent the last few weeks dabbling with a pre-release build of Google Wallet, and you can find my just-published review of it here.