Google Wallet — the search giant’s payments business that competes against PayPal and Apple Pay, among others — is today taking its first step outside of the U.S., in the form of money transfers. Users in the UK will now be able to send money to each other by way of an “attachment” in Gmail. Google tells us that the feature should be live today for 10-20% of Gmail users in the UK, rolling out over the next several days and available to everyone by Monday.
Google confirms to us that this is the only Google Wallet service that is rolling out today in the UK, or anywhere else, for that matter.
In other words, no sign of when Google might launch point-of-sale services, where users can use a Google Wallet app on iOS or an Android device to pay for items sold by participating merchants.
Some skeptics think Google will never launch point-of-sale payments in the UK, although I suspect that there are several reasons why that may not be true. Apple’s commitment to build Apple Pay, along with PayPal’s existing presence here, and the general fact that the UK has always been known as a “nation of shopkeepers” — i.e. a receptive and commerce-friendly market, with a very high penetration of smartphone users too boot — could make the UK a more enticing market than some might think.
For Gmail users in the U.S., the money transfer feature has been around since May 2013, the first part of a much bigger strategy that Google unveiled that year to improve the ubiquitousness of Google Wallet-based services beyond POS payments. Users need to be at least 18 and have bank accounts or credit/debit cards linked to their Google Wallet accounts.
In light of the advances that Apple Pay has made since its launch last year — Apple earlier this week touted that $2 out of every $3 that was being purchased with mobile devices was already being bought via Apple Pay, and merchants and others are scrambling to integrate it — Google appears to now be turning up the dial once again, striking while the iron is hot, or perhaps just making sure that it doesn’t drown out too much in all the Apple Pay noise.
Other recent developments have including partnering with other payment providers to help integrate its Instant Buy API into more merchants’ online and mobile purchasing flows, and also reportedly talking to acquire Softcard, a carrier joint venture to build out mobile payments services in physical stores.
A little video of how the service works: