Sprint Announces Two New NFC Phones Supporting Google Wallet
Along with the Galaxy Nexus, Sprint, the No. 3 U.S. carrier, will introduce an NFC-enabled Android phone from LG Electronics, the Viper. Sprint said the phones would be available during the first half of 2012, the first devices supporting its move into 4G LTE technology.
They will join Sprint’s Nexus S 4G, which uses another type of 4G technology, and is the only phone on the market officially supporting the Google Wallet.
The new phones, probably hitting the market in the second quarter, will offer a much-needed boost for the wallet, which is struggling to gain users with only one device supporting it to date.
The Galaxy Nexus, manufactured by Samsung Electronics, made its big U.S. debut last month, but without the Google Wallet. That was after the distributor of the smartphone, Verizon Wireless, asked Google not to include the wallet app functionality in the phone.
It’s possible for Verizon subscribers to go around this roadblock and download the Google Wallet app to their Galaxy Nexus phones, but that is not a scenario for mass-market adoption.
Verizon is a charter member of the Isis joint venture, along with AT&T and T-Mobile USA, and is seen to be clearing the way for the launch of the Isis wallet later this year. Sprint–the only one of the top four U.S. carriers that is not part Isis–also remains the only carrier supporting the Google Wallet.
The blocking move by Verizon–the largest mobile operator in the United States–is a significant setback to Google’s prospects for rolling out its wallet widely. But Google faces other challenges, including signing up more merchants to accept coupons, offers and loyalty points that complement the payment applications and managing the secure elements on various phone models and platforms.
Both the Galaxy Nexus and LG Viper come with an embedded secure chip, which will store the payment applications, such as Google’s Prepaid Card or a mobile credit card issued by Citigroup, both of which support MasterCard PayPass technology. The secure chips would also store coupons, points and offers.
Sprint’s Galaxy Nexus runs the latest version of Android, 4.0, dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich, which supports Google’s Android Beam, an enhanced NFC peer-to-peer feature the Web giant introduced for the handset. Sprint, in its announcement Monday of the new LTE phones in connection with the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, seemed keen to promote the P2P feature. It noted that Android Beam “allows users to quickly share web pages, apps and YouTube videos with friends by simply tapping phones together.”
The smaller LG Viper only supports Android 2.3, known as Gingerbread, so will not support Android Beam out of the box.
Sprint said it plans to launch 15 4G LTE devices in 2012, including smartphones and tablets, but it remains to be seen how many of these will run the Google Wallet.
The carrier’s LTE rollout will begin in the first half of 2012 in four cities, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Sprint said it plans to expand the rollout later in the year.