Google is particularly fond of renaming its services every few years, and nowhere is this more evident than in its payment strategy. Google folded its older Google Pay into GPay – a custom version built from scratch for India – but it didn’t roll out the service globally, instead confining it to a few markets.
This led to a lot of confusion as there were two different versions of Google Pay, and Google is now adding another product to the mix: Google Wallet. This new iteration of Google Wallet lets you pay with credit and debit cards and works with NFC payments, and you also get the ability to add digital IDs, transit cards, event tickets, car keys, vaccine cards, and much more.
The new wallet is Google’s latest attempt to create a digital wallet that securely stores all your cards, and it has a lot of potential. However, Google Pay will continue to exist alongside Wallet in select countries, so let’s take a look at how we got here, what Google Wallet can offer, and why you should still care about Google Pay.
Google Payment History: A Short Primer
Google’s first payment service was called Wallet in 2011, but it was limited to Nexus devices and limited in its feature set. Then Android Pay came in 2015 to facilitate contactless payments across all Android devices, but Google hasn’t killed Wallet yet; Instead, it switched to a peer-to-peer payments service. In 2018, I folded Google Android Pay and Google Wallet into a single service called Google Pay.
During all this, Google India has been working on a completely new payment system designed for India. It was launched in 2017 and was called Tez, which means fast in Hindi. The service is designed to facilitate peer-to-peer payments on India’s Unified Payments Interface and has picked up the ability to pay utility bills, view transaction history, find local businesses, and get rewards, and because this is Google, it’s an easy way to message contacts within application.
Confusingly, Google renamed Tez to Google Pay in India — similar to GPay — and then launched the service in other markets at the end of 2020. Not all countries got the new GPay variant, which led to two different versions of Google Pay — the older version that doesn’t. It’s still powered by Google Pay and used mostly all over the world, and the GPay variant that debuted in India and made its way to the US and Singapore.
Google is now trying to clear some of this confusion by fixing the old Google Pay and integrating it into Google Wallet.
Google Wallet is designed to be so much more
Google Wallet has all the features you’ll find in Google Pay, including the ability to store credit and debit cards, make contactless payments, get rewards, and store loyalty cards, boarding passes, transit cards, and tickets.
You’ll also be able to digitize vaccine cards, student IDs, and use Wallet as a digital car key – provided your car provides this feature. Google is working with states in the US and international governments to bring mobile driver licenses and the ability to store office badges directly within Wallet, and it is working with hotels to enable digital hotel keys.
Google has reiterated that Wallet will continue to work on Wear OS in the same way that Google Pay currently works, and this should be welcome news for those impacted by the switch from Google Pay to GPay, which broke the Tap-to-pay feature on Android smart watch.
Essentially, Google Wallet is an evolution of Google Pay, and with the service set to be available in most global markets, it will become Google’s default payment option.
Google Pay won’t be phased out – at least in these areas
Google Wallet will appear for the first time in 38 global markets, where it will automatically replace Google Pay. But the service is not coming to India, and Google has confirmed that GPay will continue to be the default option for customers in the country looking to make payments. This means that Indian users will lose digital IDs and all the new features that Google Wallet has to offer.
But in the US and Singapore, Google Wallet will be available alongside GPay, with Google offering both services. Wallet will be the pre-installed default option on the best Android phones from now on, with Google offering GPay as an alternative to making peer-to-peer payments. So if you don’t need this specific feature, you can just use Wallet.
Google Wallet is the way forward
While Google could have made rolling out Wallet less confusing, the service itself has a lot of potential.
At its core, Wallet brings together most of the features Google has introduced into payment services over the past decade. And by reviving the wallet’s branding, Google is making it easier for customers to understand what the service is all about — switching to Google Pay clearly hasn’t had the desired effect, so this is all about course correction.
We’ll have more to share about Google Wallet as soon as it becomes available, but for now, what you need to know is that Google Pay is going away and Google Wallet is back – at least in most countries.