Googleis working on a new version of Google Wallet for mobile phones and it may include support for the iPhone. As first noted by BusinessInsider, the Google Wallet home page has been updated to allow users to request an invite to a new Google Wallet that is now in the works.
What’s interesting is that when you sign up for an invite, the site asks what kind of device you use: Android, iPhone or other. It’s unclear what that means for Google Wallet, which up until now has been based on near-field communication for mobile payments. NFC payments require a chip inside devices to complete tap-and-go transactions.
It could mean that Google may be pursuing a more cloud-based approach to payments that doesn’t require NFC for transactions. Or Google Wallet could integrate with Apple’s Passbook or evolve to support QR codes or 2D barcodes, which is how Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts handle mobile payments. Or it could just mean Google wants to know how many iPhone users are interested in Google Wallet. Currently, the iPhone doesn’t support NFC and Apple decided to keep the technology out of the iPhone 5, dealing a symbolic blow to the short-range wireless technology.
The reliance on NFC has been problematic for Google Wallet, which launched a year ago but has only been able to get support on select Sprint and Virgin Mobile devices. On Monday, Google announced it is now expanding support to Galaxy S III devices on MetroPCS. Google has had little luck in getting support on phones running on Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, which on Monday finally launched a competing mobile payment system called Isis that also relies on NFC. Google may finally get Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile to allow Google Wallet on their phones but it’s unclear when that will happen.
Google’s VP of Wallet & Payments Osama Bedier, reiterated his support for NFC last week saying it was still easier to use than QR codes. He predicted that NFC will grow in popularity in the coming years and “NFC chips will replace bar codes.”
So there are not a lot of answers right now but it makes sense for Google to try some new approaches. In August, it also opened up Google Wallet to allow any card to work with the payment system. But it still faces challenges in Wallet adoption, even on existing Android phones. I’m not sure what iPhone support would look like but any additional momentum for Google Wallet would be welcome at this point.