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Google’s New Wallet Digitizes Payment Cards Plus Drivers’ Licenses And Other Credentials

In a nod to consumers’ preference to have all the contents of a physical wallet digitized—including driver’s licenses and vaccine cards, in addition to payment cards—Alphabet Inc.’s Google subsidiary has introduced a new Google Wallet.

The new wallet, which Google plans to make available in more than 40 countries, is being positioned as a core part of the Android mobile operating system experience and is launching on Wear OS, Sameer Samat, vice president of product management, Android and Google Play, says in blog post announcing the new Google Wallet. Wear OS is a version of Google’s Android operating system for smart watches and other wearable smart electronic devices.

The first items new Google Wallet holders will be able to digitize are payment cards that can used with Google Pay in stores.

Google says it has been focused on payments as the core experience for Wear OS users. To illustrate its point, Google says that in 2021 it launched support for tap-and-pay products for Wear OS in more than 15 countries.

“With the launch of our unified platform with Samsung last year, there are now over three times as many active Wear OS devices as there were last year,” says Samat’s post. “Later this year, you’ll start to see more devices powered with Wear OS from Samsung, Fossil Group, Montblanc, Mobvoi, and others. We’re also bringing more of your favorite apps to Wear OS. Check out experiences built for your wrist by Spotify, adidas Running, LINE and KakaoTalk. And you’ll see many more from apps like SoundCloud and Deezer later this year.”

In addition to supporting payment cards, Google plans to add the capability to digitize other contents found in physical wallets, such as drivers licenses and identification cards, as well as transit passes and airline tickets.

“Soon, you’ll be able to save and access hotel keys and office badges from your Android phone. And we know you can’t leave home without your ID, so we’re collaborating with states across the U.S. and international partners to bring digital driver’s licenses and IDs to Google Wallet later this year,” says Samat.

“We’re developing smooth integrations with other Google apps and services while providing granular privacy controls,” he continues. “For example, when you add a transit card to Wallet, your card and balance will automatically show up in Google Maps when you search for directions. If your balance is running low, you can quickly tap and add fare before you arrive at the station.”

To facilitate support for the digitization of tickets, passes, and insurance and identification cards, for example, Google says it has partnered with hundreds of transit agencies, retailers, ticket providers, health agencies, and airlines to support the creation of digital versions of their cards or tickets for Google Wallet. Google Wallet users will be able to add a card or ticket directly to Google Wallet, or within the apps or sites of businesses Google partners with, the company says.

“We’re working on adding more types of content for Wallet, too, like digital IDs, or office and hotel keys,” Dong Min Kim, director of product for Google says by email. “To enable software developers to digitize a physical item, Google has created templates for boarding passes and event tickets, for example, Alternatively, developers can use a generic template if it’s something more unique and Google doesn’t have a specific solution for it, the company says.

Easy access, richer customer experiences, and security will be key features that differentiate the new Google Wallet from other digital wallets, says Kim. One way the new Google Wallet will provide a secure environment for payments is that a fingerprint, facial recognition, or personal identification number will be required to initiate a payment from a digitized card.

“[The new] Google Wallet will be easy to access and comprehensive in the use cases it supports, while also supporting seamless cross-Google app experiences and meeting our high security standards,” Kim says. “Users expect to be able to digitize their physical wallet, from payments and loyalty to tickets and IDs. Google Wallet is a redesigned digital wallet for Android that provides fast, secure access to everyday essentials.”

Consumers with the original Google Pay app with auto-update enabled will automatically receive the new Google Wallet. Google Pay users that have selected manual updates will receive prompts to update their app. Google Pay users will also be able to access the new Google Wallet from other parts of the Android operating system, such as the lock screen or quick settings shade.

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