Instead of adding new functionality to its mobile wallet, Google is axing features it already offers. Google has sent out an email to Wallet users telling them to spend the remaining balances in their digital gift cards and to cash in the rewards on their loyalty cards by August 21, AndroidCentral reported on Friday. The reason: Google is shutting down support for both gift and loyalty in Wallet on that date.
In the letter, Google said no other features are going away, and Wallet’s core near-field communications (NFC)-based mobile payments functions remain unaffected. Also if Wallet users have physical versions of their gift and loyalty cards they will continue to work.
It seems to an odd move, since one of Google’s biggest selling points for Wallet is that it aims to replace all of the plastic and paper detritus we currently pack into our billfolds, purses and pockets. By ending support for loyalty and gift cards, it’s basically telling consumers to take a step backwards and reload their physical wallets.
But this also looks to be a temporary measure. Google hinted in its letter that loyalty and gift cards would return to Wallet in some form in the near future. “We’re working with retailers on other options for gift and loyalty card redemption within Google Wallet, and are excited to share them with you soon,” the letter stated
Google Wallet has struggled as has the entire mobile payments industry — limited by lack of payment infrastructure, the lackluster adoption of NFC by smartphone makers and general consumer disinterest (many argue that mobile payments solve a problem that doesn’t exist). Google is reportedly retooling its mobile payments strategy. So we could see a much different and possibly a much less ambitious Wallet in the future.