You most likely won’t be able to get access to Google Wallet right away. That’s because Google is putting its system through a trial first on the Google Nexus S 4G, its own smartphone currently available only on the Sprint network. And when Google does eventually push out Google Wallet to more Android-based devices, you’ll need to make sure your phone runs Android 2.3 (“Gingerbread”) or higher to take advantage of NFC capabilities.
What’s more, NFC isn’t really expected to become an integral part of smartphones for at least a few years. Communications chip manufacturer Broadcom has estimated that only 10% to 15% of all smartphones will have NFC capabilities next year and Google doesn’t see NFC becoming ubiquitous until 2014 or so. That’s why ABI Research analyst Mark Beccue thinks Google Wallet is less about transforming the world today and more about making sure it stands atop the mobile payment market by the time NFC-embedded smartphones become standard.
“This is setting things up for later,” he writes. “Google knows for NFC mobile payments to gain momentum there needs to be a significant percentage of NFC-equipped handsets in the marketplace. The same thing applies to merchant POS systems – very few can accept NFC mobile payments today.”