Has Google hit an impasse with Wallet? Apple may have gotten smartphone users talking again about NFC-based payments last year with the launch of Apple Pay on the new iPhones, but Google’s failed to do much in recent memory to draw new customers to Wallet. Could user confusion over the tap-and-pay mechanic of it, including uncertainty about both phone and retail POS compatibility, be limiting adoption? Google may have its suspicions about just that, as we get word that it’s been investigating a new payment method that works very differently from the Wallet we’re used to.
Google’s reportedly been testing a system codenamed Plaso that dumps NFC in favor of a payment mechanic reminiscent of the old Square Wallet app. Here’s what we’ve heard about how it works:
A Plaso user’s phone would use Bluetooth to broadcast his or her presence to nearby retailers. Those retailers in turn would be able to see a list of initials identifying Plaso users in their stores. When you went to pay, you’d tell the cashier your initials, which could then be matched against the list of Plaso users in the area. After verifying your identity, the retailer could charge your purchase through your Plaso account.
Since we’ve all got phones that support Bluetooth, the appeal here is easy to see, although we imagine that some shoppers might not be wild about the privacy implications of broadcasting their presence like this.
What’s not clear is what this all means for the future of Wallet. Would Plaso be integrated as a new way of paying? Could Google deploy it as a separate solution? Maybe Plaso would replace troubled NFC-based payments altogether. With Google I/O 2015 on our calendars, we may be learning more in just a few short months.