It’s finally arrived as expected. In a tweet and a blog post that went live just a few minutes ago, Google announced that their new Wallet system is finally available for the masses (and by masses we mean owners of the Sprint Nexus S 4G).
The app will be rolled out via an over-the-air update and will allow users to tap and pay at over "300,000 PayPass locations around the globe," according to Mastercard’s Heart of Commerce blog. Google’s also offering a nice bonus for early adopters: $10 in Google Prepaid Cards to users who sign up for the system before the end of the year, enough for two or three free coffees. (Does Google want you entrenched, or what?)
But the most interesting bit of news is that Google is working with Visa, Discover and American Express in addition to their launch partners, Mastercard and Citi. The companies "have made available their NFC specifications that could enable their cards to be added to future versions of Google Wallet," according to the official Google blog.
So what’s it mean for regular consumers who don’t own the Nexus S 4G? Not much. At least not yet.
Though GigaOM spotted a Google Wallet-equipped terminal in a San Francisco coffee shop earlier today, Google’s recent strategy of small, controlled releases (Google+, Places, etc.) will allow them to iron out any kinks without putting them in the spotlight. It’s a lesson they learned the hard way when they trumpeted the arrival of Google Buzz.
If all goes according to plan, we could very well see every Android released next year equipped with the new mobile payment system, especially if the major credit card companies give their blessing. NFC payments straight from your smartphone have been huge hit in Japan—barring any major incident, it should only be a matter of time before they catch on elsewhere.