Google has announced that it is partnering with mobile payments platform Softcard in order to expand the reach of Google Wallet and take on the likes of Apple Pay.
Softcard is a joint venture with T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T, and the deal will have Google Wallet pre-installed in phones from all of these carriers.
"Today, we're excited to announce that we're working with AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless, as well as their mobile payments company Softcard, to help more Android users get the benefits of tap and pay," said Google in a blog post. "We're also acquiring some exciting technology and intellectual property from Softcard to make Google Wallet better."
The deal will also see Google acquire some of the technology behind Softcard. It doesn't seem as though any Softcard employees will make the move to Google.
More importantly, it will mean that all phones running Android 4.4 KitKat or later will come with Google Wallet pre-installed, encouraging customers to take advantage of Google's mobile payment service, which works both in-store and on a smartphone.
The deal comes amid heightened interest surrounding the mobile payments market, with Apple having announced Apple Pay late last year.
While Apple was not the first company to release a mobile payments platform, it was by far the most publicized and it has certainly brought consumer awareness to mobile payments. Google and Softcard, which was previously known as Isis but changed its name to avoid any links with the Islamic State terrorist group, have had mobile payment platforms for a number of years now.
The news is rather ironic. One of the main reasons that Google Wallet has not received widespread adoption is the fact that carriers blocked it from being able to work on their smartphones. That is until Google made a workaround using a technology called HCE that gets information from the cloud, which cannot be controlled by carriers.
Google has run into roadblocks with its platform in the past. It previously had only one mobile carrier on its side, Sprint, and not all of its smartphone manufacturer partners wanted to put NFC into their smartphones. NFC is required for users to make in-store payments. With this new deal, however, all four major U.S. carriers will pre-install the software on their phones.
In the past, users could still install Google Wallet by themselves, but having the app pre-installed may greatly raise awareness of its existence.
Despite this deal and also Apple promoting its own entry into the mobile payments arena, many suggest that it will be a long time before mobile payments are adopted on a larger scale, mostly because of the fact that it will take a long time for merchants to adopt NFC pay points in their stores.
While many larger retailers have adopted the technology, smaller stores and restaurants mostly have yet to make the move.