Google Wallet’s Secure Element Not Responding Error Explained

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Google Wallet is an app that lets you use your NFC-enable Android-powered smartphone to make payments on compatible credit card terminals. Currently the only officially supported phone is the Sprint Nexus S 4G.

Since both the GSM and Verizon of the Galaxy Nexus both have NFC chips in them, developers have been hard at work getting Google Wallet to run on the new flagship phones and not long ago we told you how to do just that.

I’ve been using Google Wallet to buy my daily soda at the local convenience store for the past few weeks. I’ve never once had a problem and the convenience is very, very cool!

AOKP Milestone 1

Last night I decided to try out a new ROM. I’ve been running the stock Android 4.0.1 ROM (albeit unlocked and rooted) and wanted to try out Android 4.0.3 via the AOKP Milestone 1 ROM. If you can get past the pink unicorn with a rainbow mane as your boot animation, the ROM is quite nice. Custom settings, speed, no observed lag — all great improvements! Then I went about setting up my apps, all without problem until I got to Google Wallet, where I was met with an error:

Secure element not responding. The Secure Element has stopped responding. Please contact Google Wallet support.

I tried installing the Google Wallet .APK: same problem. I tried flashing the Google Wallet .ZIP from recovery: same problem. Luckily, I backed up my old ROM, with a working Google Wallet, so I wiped and restored it. Same problem?! I rolled back to an earlier backup: same problem. Argh!

Apparently I’m not alone. Others who have upgraded to Android 4.0.2 or 4.0.3 have gotten the same Secure element not responding error — and the conclusion isn’t pretty:

“you’re screwed unless you get a new device. The Secure Element in your phone has now locked you out.”

The consensus among the forums is that the secure part of the NFC chip can only be activated for one wallet. When you switch wallets the secure chip locks you out. The solution? Get a new phone.

That’s not the best option, and most will just give up on Google Wallet. If you’ve put money on your Google pre-paid card and this happens it’s not accessible to you without a working Google Wallet app, and those who have tried to get a refund from Google Wallet support haven’t reported any success.

Hopefully the developer community will come up with a way to either unlock the secure NFC bits on your NFC chip, or tell Google Wallet not to worry about it.

Now for some good news: some have reported that all NFC functions on your phone are now dead. That’s not the case. I was still able to NFC “share” with another Galaxy Nexus, so it would appear “non-secure” NFC functionality still exists.

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy".By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video. Read more about Joe Levi here.