Today is apparently the launch day for Google Wallet—Google’s fourth rebrand of its payment system. Users on Reddit report the app has rolled out to them, and a version has popped up on APKMirror if you want to sideload. Google also launched a ton of support pages today relating to Wallet.
Google Wallet was announced at Google I/O 2022, and brings back the original Google payments product name. Wallet was originally around from 2011-2015, then it became Android Pay, then Google Pay in 2018, and now Wallet is back in 2022. Google’s turbulent payment products have never been worse than right now, where the sort-of-outgoing product, Google Pay has been on the market for just over a year.
While the Google Pay brand has been around longer than a year, Google pushed out a completely new codebase in March 2021. This new version of Google Pay used the codebase of “Google Tez,” a payments product developed for India. Compared to the older Google Pay, New Google Pay had a ton of feature regressions, like losing support for logging into multiple devices, no support for multiple accounts, and no compatibility with anything that didn’t have a SIM card, which meant the Google Pay website had to be stripped of functionality.
The Tez Google Pay rollout was a disaster that kicked off an employee exodus, and the cancellation of public plans to launch Google bank accounts. It’s now a year later, and it seems like most of the people involved in the Tez Google Pay rollout have left Google, and now the old app is back with a new coat of paint.
The package name for Google Wallet is “com.google.android.apps.walletnfcrel,” which means Google Wallet is an in-place upgrade for the old Google Pay app, the one Google forced users in the US to uninstall about one year ago. It would be great if Google just rolled back everything to the old codebase, but that’s not what’s happening, at least, not in the US. Internationally, Google has a great rollout plan for Google Wallet. The disastrous New Google Pay (Tez) rollout only happened in the US and Singapore, so internationally there’s just the old Google Pay (walletnfcrel), and that’s getting replaced with Google Wallet. One app will be able to handle all of your Google Payment duties, like tap-and-pay and sending money to contacts.
In the US and Singapore, Google doesn’t seem willing to clean up the mess it made last year and wants the New Google Pay and Google Wallet apps to live alongside each other. In all cases, it’s actually Google Play Services that handles tap-and-pay, while in the US, New Google Pay will handle P2P payments (the feature that it is exceptionally bad at, due to things like no multiple account support). That leaves Google Wallet to… show loyalty cards? Be a shortcut for Google Play Services? Wallet does not have a lot to do right now.
Consequently, there’s not much to see in Wallet right now, just a normal NFC card interface, some loyalty cards, and a metro card search. The non-money parts of Wallet are the things Wallet will focus on in the future. Today, Wallet will scan your email to find membership cards, and mine found cards I wasn’t even aware I still had, like a Best Buy loyalty card that hasn’t been used for probably 15 years. You can add student IDs, COVID-19 vaccination cards, metro cards, and someday, the app plans to support digital driver’s licenses and car keys.
Listing image by Google