Early adopters with a Galaxy Nexus can now add Google Wallet software without rooting their handset. The older method of a hacked installation on a phone with root access is no longer needed, because a Wallet installation file has surfaced on the web. The XDA-Developers site — the source I used for my own Wallet install earlier this month — has the source file, which is installed just like any other Android app.
You will need a smartphone running Android 4.0.2, which just began rolling out a few days ago. Since my Galaxy Nexus didn’t see this update, I flashed it myself over the weekend, as Google has published links to the Galaxy Nexus factory images. I replaced Wallet with my original method and haven’t tested the simpler, non-root installation, but it should work fine for anyone wanting Google Wallet on their Nexus.
Aside from the convenience factor of paying for a transaction by tapping your phone to a wireless terminal, Wallet is becoming a bit of a spotlight app for two reasons. The obvious one is that here in the U.S., the software, in conjunction with the near field communication (NFC) chip in the Nexus, is one of the first wireless payment solutions using a smartphone and NFC hardware. Note that other countries implemented similar solutions some years ago.
Second, as the current exclusive carrier to sell the Galaxy Nexus in the U.S., Verizon has not preinstalled the Wallet software on its phones. The operator says it has to do with security, but one can’t forget that Verizon has its own mobile payment solution in Isis, a joint project with both AT&T and T-Mobile that is expected to roll out in 2012.
This second reason was enough for Barbara van Schewick, the faculty director of the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, to have crafted a lengthy letter to the FCC asking for it to investigate the situation in detail. According to van Schewick and noted by my colleage Kevin Fitchard earlier this month, Verizon could be violating the open-access requirements it agreed to when it purchased 700 MHz spectrum for its LTE network.
Does the open-access requirement come into play when it comes to what apps can be installed on a device? Surely any software on the device should have access to the network, but what if it isn’t installed? This question doesn’t yet have the beginnings of an answer, so I anticipate the debate to continue through 2012. In the meantime, I am even more satisfied with my decision to pay full price for an unlocked GSM Galaxy Nexus: For now, I have the final say about whether my phone can run Wallet or not, and I don’t even need root access to make that decision.