For years, Google’s pitch for the Nexus class of Android phones has been that they offer the “pure Google” experience, a version of its software uncluttered by interference from carriers and handset makers. But that won’t be the case for the Galaxy Nexus, as Verizon has decided to block Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Wallet from the latest and greatest Android phone.
The Galaxy Nexus is expected to arrive in the U.S. sometime this month, perhaps as soon as this week. Android fans had been hoping to see it arrive earlier following its October launch event, but it seems that part of the delay could have extended to negotiations over Google Wallet. Google confirmed to Computerworld and several other tech publications that its new mobile payments system will not run on the Galaxy Nexus, telling SplatF: “Verizon asked us not to include this functionality in the product.”
It’s hard to believe that all they did was politely ask, but that’s Google’s story. Verizon is part of a mobile-payments joint venture called Isis that includes AT&T (NYSE: T) and T-Mobile, and although that group has yet to actually launch anything it has lined up several heavyweights from the payments industry to support the initiative and is planning to launch trials in Austin, Texas, in the first half of 2012.
So while it’s understandable that Verizon wouldn’t want people to get used to Google Wallet, it’s a little embarrassing for Google to roll over for Verizon on a Nexus-class device. Unlike other Nexus-class devices, the Galaxy Nexus will also come with a few Verizon-installed applications, although Verizon will not interfere with the new ability of Android 4.0 to let users disable and hide those applications.
Updated 11:20 a.m.: Verizon issued a statement likely in response to a Bloomberg report on the situation, which said that Verizon had “blocked” Google Wallet. Verizon’s statement follows:
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.
Verizon appears to be claiming that Google Wallet either needs a new secure hardware module that Verizon doesn’t support or that the Google Wallet code that Google and Samsung used on the Nexus S running on Sprint’s network won’t work with Verizon’s existing secure payment module; a company representative didn’t respond to a request for further information. So they appear to be saying that they’re not “blocking” the application, exactly, but that they have not figured out a way to allow the conditions needed to support the application to run on Verizon phones because of “commercial discussions.” One of the major stumbling blocks in mobile payments has been the issue over who has control over that secure module in which payment information is stored: Google, the carriers, the handset makers, or the payment processors.
I’m not sure how in the end that is any different from “blocking” the app, but Verizon seems to feel that blocking is a loaded word.