If you’ve read the site for a bit, you know I’ve been super excited about the advent of NFC-enabled payment and check-ins. While the latter’s still a little ways out, it’s possible, albeit on extremely rare hardware, to pay for stuff with a few taps of your cell phone, at least in North America. Google’s made a push toward NFC-enabled payments with Wallet, but so far, only one phone on exactly one carrier (the Nexus S on Sprint) supports it. Well, I’m here to tell you today that dreams do come true (if you have a Verizon Galaxy Nexus, anyway) and I’m more than happy to show you how this future of paying for stuff works!
What You Need
Okay, so you won’t be able to leave your wallet at home, but you can at least wean yourself off your dependence on a bunch of plastic cards to make it through the day. Well, or at least make it easier to buy fast food, anyway. Aside from a Nexus S (and only on Sprint at that), you’re going to need two things:
- A Verizon Galaxy Nexus (Unrooted works just fine. Rooted folks seem to be having some issues getting it to work.)
- This APK, courtesy the brave men at XDA-Developers (and thanks to Dieter Bohn at The Verge for pointing it out)
Move that Google Wallet APK to your Galaxy Nexus (anywhere will be just fine) and open it with Astro File Manager, which installs it. I had absolutely zero issues with its installation on my unrooted Galaxy Nexus. Once it’s done, open the Google Wallet app, set up a PIN, and verify your Google account, which will net you a $10 Google gift card, powered by MasterCard. (The app natively supports Citi MasterCards, so if you have one, you can just throw it right on there.) If you want to add more funds to it, just put in another card’s info and you can add more moola to your Google Wallet almost instaneously.
How You Use It
Once all that setup’s done, you now only need to find an Near Field Communication (NFC) terminal to use it. The following picture is from one of our vending machines. You’ll find that same NFC “bands” symbol and you may even see the MasterCard PayPass logo underneath it like you see there, but sometimes you won’t (Google Wallet only supports it if it uses PayPass, as I’ve understood it). You’ve seen these terminals at C-stores and above card-signing pads for years, but you’ve probably never thought they were very special… until now.
I was actually so excited about paying with my phone for the first time ever that I actually made sure I wasn’t holding anyone up while doing it. With your phone on the home screen (Google Wallet doesn’t need to be open) you simply hold your phone right next to the NFC symbol. This prompts Google Wallet to open and ask for your PIN. PIN entered, it’ll ask you to put your phone back against the NFC plate. Be sure to hold it on there until there’s a confirmation of transfer or it’ll ask you to try again. Proceed with the transaction as normal.
You have just bought something without ever retrieving your wallet. Google will even keep your transaction history tidy. (Yes, I bought a lot of candy and junk food today.)
It’s The Future!
Maybe you’re not as excited as I am about the prospect of dropping my physical cards into a safe and never opening it again is an incredible prospect. The problem is that the carriers aren’t quite on with the whole thing, which is why Google’s Wallet has so little support. Verizon says that their LTE version of the Galaxy Nexus doesn’t even support the Wallet, which is why you needed to install that APK earlier. It’s a work around. No, don’t worry, your data’s not compromised, but it is a relatively huge amount of work for something that should’ve been included in the first place.
The problem is politics. Those aforementioned carriers back Google Wallet competitor ISIS which isn’t stretching its limbs as wide or deep as Google is. So far there are two phones with contemporary operating systems sold in the United States that support it. It’s rumored that Apple will be including NFC in their next iPhone, but who knows what standard they’ll be using, if they don’t go out and make their own (which is the worst idea in the world: fragmentation in such a slightly-used transaction method). Microsoft says NFC-enabled Windows Phones will be rolling out next year.
While retail support is limited to a lot of fast food joints (and not drive-thru, mind you!), 7-11, and a few others like Old Navy, Lowe’s, Foot Locker, and Best Buy, it’s still not ubiquitous. It’s really only a matter of time now.
I can’t wait.