Google thinks it’s time to bring Wallet back
Google announced it’s bringing back the Wallet app as a place to manage payment cards, gift cards, rewards cards, passes, and more. Wallet was a standalone app before being integrated with Google Pay. Now the company is making it a separate app again, saying consumers and businesses are pushing for digital maps.
Wallet will be the app you use to store and manage your debit and credit cards on Android. (You’ll be able to use it in Google’s ecosystem in apps like Google Pay and on the web through Chrome Autocomplete). But Google wants it to be more than just a way to store credit and rewards cards. The company also offers Wallet as a place to store your transportation cards, proof of vaccinations, tickets to events, and even your government-issued ID and car keys.
Older versions of Google Wallet had similar (albeit more limited) aspirations, but Google says other companies are now more willing to provide users with digital cards and ID to complete the app. For example, some hotels have shown willingness to provide digital room keys, and some state governments in the United States are working on issuing digital driver’s licenses. Apple has also been working on adding these kinds of use cases to its own Wallet app, which Google’s offering seems very similar to. That’s not to say Google is copying Apple here, but there could be some catching up to do since Apple has been pushing this kind of experiment for years.
“Time and context matter,” said Bill Ready, Google’s president of commerce and payments, in an interview with The edge. He said businesses and other institutions want to provide users with a way to store their information digitally, and Google Wallet will be one of the places they can do that. Ready said the company is trying to build Wallet on a bed of open ecosystems, which he says will “open up a plethora of new use cases.”
As an example of what this might look like, Ready talked about integrating Google Wallet with Google Maps. If your travel pass is stored in Google Wallet, you’ll be able to see how much money you have left when you view possible routes in Maps, which can also tell you the cost of a given trip. If you don’t have enough on your pass to cover the fares, Maps can even let you top it up from the app using the payment card stored in Wallet.
Of course, this all has to be supported by the specific transit system you’re trying to use, but Ready said transit providers are among the most enthusiastic organizations when it comes to digital ids. Google will depend on third parties for many of the features it tries to add to Wallet, but Ready thinks its open ecosystem approach will help and businesses won’t generally have to pay to integrate with Wallet.
How this rollout goes also depends on where you are in the world: in many countries, the Google Pay app is become Google Wallet. That’s not the case in the US and Singapore, though – in those countries, Wallet will be a separate app, while Pay will remain as “a payments-centric app that helps people pay friends and save and manage money. In India, Google Pay remains the same.
Switching to Wallet as a standalone app that integrates with other apps makes a lot of sense to me. While many of Google’s promising features for Wallet are currently available in Google Pay or Android itself, they don’t necessarily fit there – I’m not really paying for anything when I use my boarding pass to get on a plane, but it would make perfect sense to keep something like this in my wallet.
It’s also nice to be able to manage all your cards in one place (like you can with, say, a physical wallet), and Google Pay has just too much other stuff to be great at that. Unlike Pay, Wallet is just going to be on Android to begin with, but you’ll be able to access some of the information you put there on other platforms. Some things, like digital IDs, will likely be locked to one device.
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