Yesterday news broke that Verizon would be blocking Google’s flagship Galaxy Nexus phone from including Google Wallet, the NFC-based system that will let you tap your phone against special sensors to pay for goods and services. The decision was almost certainly spurred by Verizon’s support of a rival NFC-based payment solution called ISIS.
We’ve now learned more details.
Some reports, including one in the WSJ, state that while the phone won’t launch with Google Wallet, users may be able to download it from Android Market in the future. This isn’t the case, we’ve learned. As things stand now, even once Google Wallet rolls out more broadly, the Verizon Galaxy Nexus won’t be able to download it from Android Market. This could change down the line should the two parties reach another agreement (or Google just decides to tell Verizon to buzz off), but that’s where the dust has settled at this point.
And now, despite all this, Verizon is striking back with a statement that it is not actually blocking the app from the Galaxy Nexus. Except it is.
Here’s their ridiculously vague statement:
“Recent reports that Verizon is blocking Google Wallet on our devices are false. Verizon does not block applications.
Google Wallet is different from other widely-available m-commerce services. Google Wallet does not simply access the operating system and basic hardware of our phones like thousands of other applications. Instead, in order to work as architected by Google, Google Wallet needs to be integrated into a new, secure and proprietary hardware element in our phones.
We are continuing our commercial discussions with Google on this issue.”
With this statement, Verizon is apparently saying that Google Wallet isn’t an application, but, rather, a combination of software and special hardware. This is actually mostly true — in order for the wireless payment features of Google Wallet to function, your device needs both a special secure element and an NFC chip.
But Verizon is implying that in order to make Wallet work, it needs to somehow tweak the Galaxy Nexus hardware. Which is false. For one, BGR already has the app working on the HSPA+ version of the Galaxy Nexus. And a source tells us that the Galaxy Nexus Verizon is planning to ship already has both the requisite NFC chip and a secure element embedded as well. It would work just fine.
The actual reason Verizon doesn’t like Google Wallet is because it — along with AT&T and T-Mobile — is backing the rival service ISIS. The technical implementation of ISIS is different from Google Wallet’s, in part because the secure element is housed on the SIM rather than the device itself. And I won’t be surprised if Verizon comes back with an argument that this is in fact the only kind of secure element they’re comfortable deploying on their network, which the Galaxy Nexus doesn’t have. But it’ll be hot air.
Now, technically Verizon isn’t actually blocking Google Wallet, in the sense that it’s somehow restricting phones from downloading the required app. Instead, in a statement Google said the carrier asked it “not to include this functionality in the product”, and it complied with that request. But this wasn’t a friendly conversation between friends. Google and Verizon have doubtless made various negotiations and concessions, and this is apparently one thing Verizon either won’t budge on, or that Google is willing to give into.
After all, while Google’s statement makes things sound fairly benign, Verizon could have asked Google, “Could you please remove this feature — otherwise we won’t release the phone?”
Verizon hasn’t responded to a request for further clarification on its statement, and Google doesn’t have any further comment.
Image by Doug Beckers on Flickr