Android Wants Your Wallet

Google CEO Eric Schmidt demonstrated an as yet unnamed, unbranded handset equipped with NFC – near field communication yesterday, using it to check in to the palace hotel in San Francisco where the event was held.

NFC has many potential uses but the biggie is likely to be instant payments, allowing you to pay for goods and services simply by waving your phone at the till and authorizing the payment via an app.

The revelation that Gingerbread, the latest incarnation of Android will include native support for NFC hardware is interesting. Since NFC hardware is relatively cheap and simple, it would make sense for handset manufacturers to include it now that it will be supported by Android, even if precisely what it will be used for isn’t clear.

Currently the contactless payment arena is a bit disorganised with handset manufacturers, networks and existing credit card companies fighting over who does what. ¬†As always, Google stepping in to the fray is likely to change the game, but how is anyone’s guess. ¬†Typically Google’s approach to new markets is to be as disruptive as possible, kick the table over and see where the cards land and no one expects this to be any different.

Google already offer Google Checkout, an online payment system in the same vein as paypal, although not as widely adopted.

Having access to your off line shopping habits is likely to be a boon for google, for example if you use their payment system to pay for a hotel, you could then be shown ads for local restaurants. If you bought a digital camera you could be shown ads for accessories or insurance.

Of course Google’s success is far from assured in this, in fact it’s not even certain whether or not they will actually offer their own payment system at all, but Google’s support for NFC is sure to bring contactless payments a step closer.

Assuming for a moment that they do offer a payment service, would you be happy about giving them control of your wallet? Let us know in the comments.

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