Put your money where your mobile is

What would it take for us to become a completely cashless society? Mobile phone apps such as 02 and Google Wallet are trying to get us one step closer.

Google Wallet is an Android app but I have an iPhone. So before I went holiday shopping, I drove down to Google’s campus in Mountain View to borrow an Android, where I met with Nathan Tyler.

Nathan Tyler is a spokesman for Google Wallet. To use the Google Wallet, you need a Gmail account and you have to input your credit card numbers, which Google stores in the cloud. The Google Wallet also requires a PIN. The process takes about 10 minutes.

Tyler reminded me though, that it took us thousands of years to go from bartering, to cash, to credit card and we’re just at the beginning of this experiment in money.

But Google is one of a slew of tech companies that thinks digital wallets are the future. Tyler says ease is one thing but the real benefit -- once digital wallet catches on -- is going to be the deals you’ll get.  

"The promise of the digital wallet is not that you can pay, but discounts, they’re digital discounts that you can collect and save to your wallet," he says.

As we do more and more on our smartphones, it collects more data on us. It knows what we’re searching for, what we bought, where we are. As Google Wallet knows more about us, it can send us deals that are relevant to us.  That’s the promise, anyway.

Of course, deals are great when you’re doing holiday shopping. So I did mine in tech-savvy San Francisco. If Google Wallet worked anywhere, it’d be here.

I fired up my phone and saw a deal to buy any Whopper and get an original Whopper for 50 cents. I’m an In-and-Out girl, so that's no deal for me.

But, the Gap had something. A page popped up showing 30 percent off of a regular item and then a map with a bunch of Gaps close by.

I found one across the street and the place was packed because everything was already on sale for 30 percent off. I headed to the sock section -- we’re practical gift givers in my family -- and picked out some designer-y socks as gifts and stood in line at the register.

When it came time to pay, I tapped my phone on the device. Nothing happened.

"It’s not working yet unfortunately... We’re not tech savvy but we will be," the cashier told me.

And with that, I paid in the old-fashioned way. The cashier handed me the socks and wished me "Happy holidays!"

For more on reporter Queena Kim's test drive of Google Wallet, click the audio link above.
 

About the author

Queena Kim covers technology for Marketplace. She lives in the Bay Area.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...