Google planning mobile payment test in San Francisco, New York
Google has been hinting for months that it will roll out a mobile payment service so that shoppers can ring up their purchases with their smart phones.
Now people familiar with the project are whispering to Bloomberg News that Google will begin testing the service at stores in San Francisco and New York in the next four months by installing thousands of cash register systems from VeriFone Systems.
The technology -- called near field communication, which transmits signals over short distances -- would let shoppers ditch cash or plastic (or even loyalty and gift cards and coupons) and check out by tapping a smart phone against a register.
Caveat: Bloomberg hasn't always gotten it right when it comes to NFC. It reported earlier this year that Apple's iPad 2 and iPhone 5 would include NFC. There is no evidence of the technology in the iPad 2 and the latest reports indicate that there won't be any NFC in the iPhone 5, which will probably be released this summer.
Google, which has taken a leading role in the mobile phone industry with its Android operating system that it offers for free to handset manufacturers, has been pushing for NFC-equipped phones, although there aren't many such Google devices out there yet.
Google's Eric Schmidt showed off what was presumed to be Samsung's Nexus S phone in November at the Web 2.0 Summit before the phone that allows NFC transactions was released. At the time he predicted that mobile phones would eventually replace credit cards.
"People don't understand how much more powerful these devices are going to be," Schmidt said. But he cautioned not to expect the technology to roll out quickly.
"I expect to be carrying my credit cards around for quite some time," he said.
Mobile payment is already a hotly contested market with a growing number of companies including EBay's PayPal and ISIS, an effort backed by AT&T and Verizon Wireless that will use Discover Financial Services to handle payments.
Google has demonstrated how the latest version of its Android operating system -- code named Gingerbread -- has mobile payment capability. And in Portland, Ore., Google has been experimenting with NFC window decals that, when tapped with a smart phone, give additional information about the business, including special offers and deals.
Not to mention that if Google were to get a significant foothold in mobile payment, its Checkout payment system would get a welcome boost.
-- Jessica Guynn