Yesterday US carrier Sprint announced that the Samsung Galaxy Nexus was coming to its network — with Google Wallet:
Galaxy Nexus will also be Sprint’s second smartphone enabled with NFC supporting Google Wallet, enabling the phone to be used like a wallet to make safe, secure purchases at hundreds of thousands of participating retailers.
Verizon, the first carrier in the US to offer the Galaxy Nexus, initially said that the payments app would not be available on the phone. The company initially cited security concerns but changed its story as media outlets and bloggers questioned the company’s motives.
A Verizon spokesman told PC Magazine in December that “[I]n order to work as architected by Google, Google Wallet needs to be integrated into a new, secure and proprietary hardware element in our phones.” Yet this hardware or security explanation for not immediately making Google Wallet available is dubious, given that Sprint cited no such concerns when it earlier released the Nexus S (the first Google Wallet/NFC Android phone).
Verizon is an investor, along with AT&T and T-Mobile in ISIS, a joint mobile payments venture. Google Wallet is directly competitive with ISIS. The availability of the Galaxy Nexus (with Google Wallet) on Sprint puts some additional pressure on Verizon to “unblock” the payments app.
The ISIS platform is at least a year away from general availability. No doubt Verizon fears that if Google Wallet is widely available across Android handsets and develops momentum that ISIS would be preempted. That fear is justified in my opinion. However outright blocking of a competitive product by Verizon would likely run afoul of regulators and lead to an investigation.
For now, those who want to use Google Wallet in the US have one carrier choice, and that’s Sprint.