Google sadly scrapped its plans to introduce a plastic “universal” credit card that works at point-of-sale as a way to use its Google Wallet service out in the real world, but the company has not given up on its NFC-powered payments solution just yet. The company announced Wednesday evening that the Google Wallet app now works on more phones: the Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy Note II and HTC One on Sprint and the Samsung Galaxy Note II on US Cellular.
As you may have noticed, there’s a looming problem with Google Wallet, and no, it’s not international support. It’s that Google still can’t roll the app out across the U.S. Of the big four mobile carriers here, Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile, all but Sprint are backing a competing NFC-based payments initiative called Isis. Though this program is only in pilot trials in Austin and Salt Lake City, it’s clear the carriers are hoping to delay and impede progress of competitive solutions when they can, using regulatory red tape and any other legal loopholes they can find.
In Verizon’s case, the company skirted around the FCC’s 2012 decree which said it couldn’t block applications from download, with a few exceptions. (Initially, the carrier blocked the installation of the application from Google Play entirely.) According to Verizon, the secure element being used in Google Wallet is the issue. The carrier told the FCC that the app requires integration with the secure element on the device – something that makes it different from other m-commerce apps like Square or PayPal. And this is a “secure and proprietary piece of hardware” that’s “fundamentally separate from the device’s basic communications functions or its operating system,” said Verizon.
“Verizon has a straightforward process under which Google or others could launch devices on Verizon’s network with Google Wallet included,” Verizon responded at the time of the FCC inquiry.
In a sense, the carrier is positioning the Google Wallet app as something that requires additional oversight and control because of the way it integrates with phone hardware. Nevermind that the Verizon-backed Isis solution works in almost exactly the same way. (More on that here – specifically, see the amended complaint the site links to for a discussion of technical issues.)
So Google Wallet’s app continues to be non-functional on Verizon today.
Meanwhile, other carriers like T-Mobile don’t even seem to be bothering to try and hide the fact that they’re actively stopping the app from working on their devices because of their involvement with Isis. Take T-Mobile for example, which in response to a question about why Google Wallet doesn’t work on the Note II, posted on Twitter today:
@politicalgamez We’re supporting ISIS, the wireless payment standard for mobile devices tinyurl.com/cs8kc3q :) ^VS
— T-Mobile USA (@TMobileHelp) May 16, 2013
Oh, Isis is the “standard” now, not NFC? Nice try, T-Mobile.