I’ve written so much about my HTC EVO in this blog that it now seems appropriate to share my experience with my new Samsung Galaxy S III, which I had to purchase after accidentally damaging my EVO on a recent trip to Saint Paul. I hated to see my trusty EVO go, but the silver lining is that I get to write about a new device.
Given my focus on enterprise convergence, I am always drawn to smartphone features that blur the line between wireline and wireless. The Galaxy S III is my first device with Google Wallet, which takes advantage of Near Field Communications (NFC).
I have long been a fan of merging a mobile device with credit card functions because of the security that a smartphone brings to the equation. Google Wallet not only gives you a way to carry a virtual copy of your credit, debit, loyalty, and gift cards, but someday it may also allow you to check in for an airline flight, keep your driver's license, and carry your electronic medical records with you.
NFC will be commonplace on most mobile phones someday, making the swiping of magnetic credit cards as obsolete as imprinting (although looking through my wallet, I see every credit card still has embossed letters for imprinting, which suggests that most retail establishments still have those manual imprint machines under the counter just in case the network goes down).
It took only a few minutes to activate Google Wallet, sending me on a trek to find a merchant that accepted NFC payments. On its website, Google lists a number of retailers near me that accept Wallet payments: Office Max, Toys ”R” Us, CVS, and Radio Shack. The most common merchant near me was BP. Even though I didn't need gas, I stopped to buy some in the name of “research.”
When I pulled up to the gas station, I noticed that this location did not have NFC-enabled pumps, so I went inside to buy a soda. At the register, I held my phone up to the credit card terminal. The cashier exclaimed as she pressed a button, “I’ve never seen anyone pay with a phone before!” I waited until the terminal said “approved” and replied that I had never paid for anything with a phone before either
I first saw NFC in practice on the Sprint campus almost a decade ago, so it’s neat to finally see it play in Peoria. On top of the PIN associated with my Google Wallet, the security on my Samsung Galaxy S III has a number of options: face recognition with voice authentication, pattern recognition, PIN, or password. All of which is a lot more secure than my physical credit card. Even at the pumps, a person using my card fraudulently would only need to know my billing zip code. Google Wallet adds layers of security not found in the plastic version of your credit card. In fact, if my phone is lost or stolen, I would merely need to send a kill pill to the phone. And Google Wallet would still be available to me on the web or as soon as I got a new phone up and running.
NFC is a good example of how wireless and wireline work together. In this case, the transaction is only wireless for a few inches until it hits the merchant's LAN, which of course could become wireless again if the merchant uses 3G or 4G wireless for its credit card transactions. While traditional credit cards may never completely go away, the next generation is more likely to leave home without their wallet than without their phone. I expect this “consumer preference” to drive more and more NFC adoption in the future.