If you use Google (GOOG) Wallet, you'll soon be able to send people money using Gmail, attaching a dollar amount to a message just as you might a photograph or a PDF.
The company announced the new feature on Wednesday at its Google I/O developer conference in San Francisco. The plan is to integrate Google Wallet -- which allows users to store credit and debit card information on their smartphones, and make payments using near field communication (NFC) -- with the world's most popular web-based email service.
Peter Hazlehurst, director of product management for Google Wallet, told CNET the company wasn't abandoning its pay-by-tapping-on-checkout-terminal mobile technology:
We are not pulling away from NFC. We are simply making a much richer Wallet experience. There are still places where NFC can't be used. And not every device has it yet.
Google Wallet's new functionality is intended to help fill the gaps until PayPass is more widely adopted. The convenience of emailing money might also help make Google Wallet users out of Gmail account holders, who number in the hundreds of millions.
The service is free for users whose bank accounts are linked to their Google Wallets, as well as those who use a Google Wallet prepaid account; but there's a charge for taking the money from a credit or debit card. W3Reports observes that PayPal, which years ago "pioneered the concept of sending money to an email address," offers a "slight advantage" by allowing its users to choose which party pays the 2.9 percent fee for credit card transactions: the sender or the receiver.
To start transferring money with Gmail now, you have to get someone who already has access to send you $1. Once they do, you'll see a dollar sign icon when hovering over the attachment paperclip; click on it and you'll be able to enter the sum you want to transfer. If you can't find any early adopter to initiate you, this newfangled money-wiring will be gradually rolled out to U.S. Gmail users age 18 and over in the coming months.
While sender and receiver both need a Google Wallet account, you can send money to someone who doesn't have a Gmail address. Quartz cites the Bank Secrecy Act as placing an upper limit of $10,000 on money attachments.
When you use Google Wallet, your financial information is safely encrypted and stored on secure servers, and all transactions are monitored 24/7 to prevent fraudulent activity. In addition, Google Wallet Purchase Protection covers 100% of eligible unauthorized transactions
Of course, this isn't the first such technological offering: Two years ago, Bank of America (BAC), JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Wells Fargo (WFC) launched a similar pay-by-computer-or-smartphone feature, which Chris Velazco of TechCrunch says "could be more than a little tedious" to set up "if the recipient wasn't a member of the same bank." Google, on the other hand, "seems intent on making the process much easier on all the parties involved".
6 Ways Google Glass Will Change the Way You Shop
Google Links Wallet to Gmail, Letting Users Attach Money to Emails
We don't know which, if any, will be available for Glass. But assuming one of these apps gets ported over to the new hardware, you'll be able to get price comparisons just by picking up a product and looking at the barcode.
And it doesn't end there. A couple of those apps -- including Google's own shopping app -- are able to recognize the covers of books, DVDs, CDs and games, which means you don't even need to find and focus on the barcode. So, for example, if you find a book on the shelf and want to see if it's cheaper online, you could just look at it, whisper a command, and immediately have a bunch of price comparisons floating in your field of vision. And you'd also be able to call up reviews, too, so you won't have to rely on those selectively quoted blurbs that publishers choose.
Want to buy those jeans, but aren't sure if you're close to the limit of your monthly clothes budget? Several personal finance tools allow you to keep track of your budget, and this strikes us as a perfect use for Glass. Imagine if you could just say, "Okay, Glass, bring up Mint and show me how much I've spent on clothes this month."
And sometimes it's not just a matter of budgets -- you also want to make sure you don't overdraw your account or spend so much that you don't have enough left over for food. If your online banking app becomes compatible with Glass, perhaps you could see your checking account balance floating before your eyes with equal ease.
People tend to behave better when they know they're on video, and if you're wearing Glass, the person behind the customer service desk has to assume they're being filmed.
Hopefully, that doesn't lead to people harassing put-upon customer service reps by demanding preferential treatment, lest they post videos of their bad experiences on YouTube. But insofar as it keeps companies honest and helps ensure they follow their own stated policies, perhaps the knowledge that employees are on Google's candid camera can be a good thing.
But the contribution Glass could make to customer service goes beyond just filming disputes: Customer service technology firm Genesys recently floated a couple of scenarios in a blog post. A customer trying to assemble a cable box, for instance, could beam his or her field of vision to technical support staff, who would then be able to see the problem and direct the customer on what to do next. They also suggest that a hotel guest out and about with Glass could send live video to a concierge, who could then identify what part of town he was in, and recommend restaurants and attractions on the block.
Google+ hasn't exactly taken off like the company might have hoped, but the social network did give us one great feature: live group video chats, known as Hangouts. While they usually consist of an array of faces, Hangouts on Google Glass are turned inside-out, allowing you to instead share your point of view with the other participants.
In demos of the feature, Google used it to dramatic effect, showing a hangout with a group of skydivers as they jumped out of a plane. But we're envisioning a more mundane application: Trying on clothes.
If your friends couldn't join you on a shopping expedition, you can put on that dress, initiate a Hangout, look in the mirror and then get live feedback from a panel of friends. We see this being a particularly potent tool for personal shoppers who can't always be physically present with their clients.
One application of Glass is having your grocery list right there on a heads-up display, which means you don't have to look down at a list on your smartphone or on a piece of paper. But no one's going to spend more than a thousand bucks on Google Glass just to replace a sticky note on their shopping cart.
Fortunately, the most recent demos of the product have touted the inclusion of Evernote. The popular note-taking app allows you to put together to-do lists that include voice memos and photographs, and they can also be shared across multiple users. We imagine you could go to the grocery store with your wife and split up to divide and conquer; as each of you picks up items, you can tell Glass to check it off the list, and the other person will see that it's in the cart.
There are other ways it could help you coordinate your grocery shopping expedition. Let's say your wife sent you to the store to pick up pancake mix, but you don't know which kind she wants you to get. Instead of calling her and reading off every brand and variety in front of you, you can just initiate a video call and look at the pancake section; she'll see what you see, and be able to tell you which one to get.
The grocery store applications don't end there.
Perhaps you get to the grocery store and see they're having a big sale on chicken thighs. Being the frugal sort, you decide to pick some up, but you're not sure what to do with them.
Tell Glass to run a Google search for recipes featuring chicken thighs. Scroll through, pick one, then copy the ingredient list to your shopping list. Now you can get all your ingredients.
Once you get home, you can have the recipe right in your eye when you need to reference it, with no need to have a laptop or cookbook taking up valuable counter space or getting sauce spilled on it. And if you don't know the proper technique for deboning those chicken thighs, you can cue up an instructional video on YouTube without ever having to touch a computer with your slimy chicken hands.