Google Wallet UK release date

There is no Google Wallet UK release date: and here is why.

What is Google Wallet?

Google Wallet is, according to Google, an easy way to shop and save. It is a smartphone and tablet app on to which you load up existing credit cards and bank accounts. Then, whenever you see the 'Pay with Google Wallet' symbol, you can make a purchase via the app. Google Wallet also allows you to send money to other GW users via the app, and features a physical payment card with which you can make Google Wallet payments in store. Alternatively, with an NFC-enabled phone Google Wallet users can make contactless payments using their handsets.

With Google Wallet you can also pay for things in the Google Play store wherever you are in the world. Google Wallet is available for many Android devices and the iPhone, but only on devices purchased from networks in the US. For more, see What you need to know about Google Wallet.

Google Wallet release date and history

Google Wallet was announced in May 2011 and released in the US in September of that year. In May 2013 Google announced that Google Wallet users can make payments via Gmail attachments (Full story: Google Wallet makes payments possible through Gmail). In March of this year Google announced Google Wallet Orders, which allows users to track delivery of items they have ordered, using Google Wallet.

Absent from all of this, you'll note, is a UK release date for Google Wallet. And that is because there isn't one.

Google Wallet UK release date

The news is... no news. Since day one Google has responded to queries about a global roll out of Google Wallet by saying: 'At this time, the Google Wallet app is only available in the United States'. The 'at this time' bit suggests this may change at some stage in the future, but we have heard not a whisper of that happening.

And this despite Google being given the opportunity. Earlier this year Google announced changes to Google Wallet via Google Plus. Follow the link and note how many commenters asked about a potential UK rollout, and note how Google studiously avoids responding. If it is ever going to happen, it won't be soon. (See also: How to manage a Google Wallet account.)

Google Wallet Google+

Why Google Wallet isn't coming to the UK any time soon

Okay, the first reason is a good one. It is fiendishly complicated to introduce a new payment system to a new country. Different currencies, different banks, different user habits, different vdneors. Apple has done something similar with Apple Pay: it has said it definitely will come to the UK, but not until it has everyone working fine in the US.

Google would have to get vendor buy in - you need to persuade sufficient shops both physical and online to support your payment system. Even Apple, with its army of rich US consumers, has been unable to persuade the CVS network of US retailers to adopt Apple Pay. And that is Apple. Google's Android userbase is vast, but fragmented. And only recently have Android users started to spend anything like the same amounts of money as do their iPhone counterparts. It's by no means a given that Apple will be able to make Apple Pay a success in the US. Imagine how tough it will be to get UK vendors to adopt Google Wallet. And then think about how much less valuable a win that is for both Google and the vendors.

According to Internet Retailing.net a survey of 1,000 UK adults who own smartphones and tablets suggests that two thirds of iPhone users are making purchases via mobile sites at least once a month, compared to fewer than half of those with an Android smartphone. iPhone owners are also the most frequent shoppers, with one in 10 making a purchase using their mobile every single day.

And this means that despite Android's larger smartphone user base in the UK (44 percent compared to 38 percent for the iPhone according to figures from earlier this year), iOS is the dominant platform for shopping. Yes Google Wallet is available on iPhone, but if Apple Pay comes along and is integral to UK iPhones, Google Wallet won't get a look in, from iPhone users and therefore stores and banks.

Further pause for thought for Google - this is a crowded market, and Google may be having second thoughts about trying to win with its own product when it could buy into another. Either available now or upcoming in the next few years are (takes deep breath): Apple Pay, PayPal, Paym, Barclays PingIt, a service from EE that allows contactless payments via smartphone for purchases under £20, Weve, and Zapp.

Finally, in my view at least Google Wallet has not been a success in the US. Or at least not an unqualified success. It's entirely possible that Google is cooling on the whole idea. It's certainly not in a rush to go global. The Guardian estimates that Google Wallet has 17m users in the US, out of a potential 90m Android users. And those that are using it aren't using it a lot.

So while it is possible that Google will surprise us all and bring Google Wallet to UK devices, I wouldn't hold your breath. For more, see What you need to know about Google Wallet.