As Google expands its mobile wallet to more phones and, with yesterday's update, potentially more banks, consumers have more opportunities to try it — and to encounter its limitations.
Google Wallet has been in consumers' hands for over a year, so a few of its users may be ready to upgrade to a new phone and then migrate their wallets to that device. According to one user, Jim Van Dyke, the president and founder of Javelin Strategy & Research, that simple task temporarily cost him $65 in stored funds.
"My old Google Android phone had about $65 sitting on it that failed to appear in my cloud or anyone else's," Van Dyke wrote in a post on his company's blog. Recovering the funds took "three calls with Google customer service and about a week's waiting time," he wrote.
Van Dyke stressed that the frustrations he had with Google Wallet do not spell doom for the mobile wallet concept. The issue does, however, show that banks "needn't worry" just yet about Google's payment system, he wrote.
"I'm as bullish as ever on mobile payments, yet I believe that the path to get from here to there is far from clear," Van Dyke wrote. "Google is to be congratulated for their pioneering effort, and I'll continue to write about the successes and pitfalls along the way."
Jennifer Starkey, the audience development and social media manager at SourceMedia, which publishes PaymentsSource, described a better experience but reached a similar conclusion.
"Witnessing the looks on people's faces when you pay for something with your phone or tablet is priceless," Starkey wrote on her personal blog of her early experiences with Google Wallet. "I feel like I won the cool kid contest. Who doesn't want that?"
Starkey uses the mobile wallet with Google's new Nexus 7 tablet, which is smaller than an iPad but still much larger than a phone. The Nexus 7 began shipping to consumers in July, and Starkey wrote her review after owning one for a week.
Starkey determined that "there's no real advantage" to using Google Wallet instead of a regular payment card or cash, she wrote.
"Using Google Wallet takes the same amount of time, if not longer than a credit card," Starkey wrote. "You have to enter a password to get into your tablet or phone, tap your phone, enter your PIN, tell the cashier what's happening, sign the credit card screen, and leave. It's a lot of steps."
And that's when everything works as intended. Van Dyke wrote in his blog post that simple changes to behavior, such as swapping in a larger battery, can have unexpected effects on the phone's ability to make a payment.
"I now know that with the NFC chip stored in the back of the device you lose the contactless capability if you use the bulging back-cover that an oversize phone batter[y] comes with," he wrote.