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Hurry Up and Wait: Google Wallet is Coming (Eventually)

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Swipe your phone, make a purchase. That’s the idea behind Google’s new Google Wallet payment system, which the technology hydra unveiled in demo form late last week (click here, and scroll down to the first video to see it in action).

To use the system, consumers pick which credit card they want to use by selecting one on their smartphone’s screen. Then they swipe it in front of a reader terminal, similar to how many people swipe frequent shopper cards now.

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What’s funny, and potentially a concern for Google, MasterCard and Sprint, which are teaming up on new project, shows up about 55 seconds into the video. That’s when the journalist accidentally places his demonstration phone too close to the scanner, and gets hit with a second purchase.

“Oops. Move your phone slightly away,” the Google representative can be heard to say. “I’ll cancel that out.”

Whoops indeed. That little problem of accidental purchases is just one of many that must be solved before the idea of phones-as-credit-cards can go mainstream. Google Wallet, depends on Near Field Communication, which allows for wireless devices to transfer data back and forth when they are held close together. While Google Wallet will launch in the next couple of weeks for customers with Sprint’s Nexus S 4G, most consumers probably won’t be able to get their hands on the product for months, and maybe over a year, as the companies figure out the details.

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“This is a five-to-ten-year effort, not a one-year effort,” Ajay Banga, CEO of MasterCard, told American Banker. “There’s a lot of hype around it … We all should just hold our horses and have a little bit of patience.”

OK, so there are still some bugs to be worked out, and we won’t be able to use it for a while. But other features do appear tantalizing. Mobile payment apps will likely be loaded with features like self-budgeting, where the consumer uses her online bank account to set spending limits by category. If she wants to limit herself to $100 a month on restaurants and a new purchase takes her over that goal, Google Wallet can be set up to send a text warning her that she’s over the limit.

If a consumer is walking down the street and gets hungry, his smartphone becomes a serious multi-tasker. He can use it to figure out where the nearest restaurant is, check to make sure the restaurant is open, get a coupon sent to him, and then use the phone to pay for the meal (all this while possibly even carrying on a conversation, enraging everyone around him).

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“The ability to use a technology like Google Wallet to help improve the customer experience for the 30 million people who come into our restaurants [each week] is critically important,” Jeff Larson, VP of Global Marketing for Subway stores, says in this promotional video for Google Wallet.

What do you think? Are you avidly awaiting a mobile payment system like Google Wallet so you can start making purchases with your phone? Or do you have concerns about security or ease of use that might keep you away? Let us know in the comment section below.

Images: Google Wallet

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