Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I finally used Google Wallet (for an in-store payment)

Even though Google Wallet has been around for a few years, I never used it for a tap-and-pay transaction...despite setting it up on my old phone (a Nexus S) soon after it was released.  This is probably not an uncommon story, as NFC payments didn't really go mainstream until Apple Pay came out last year.  Ever since then, I became more interested in using Google Wallet in a store just to check it out.  And the fact that the app notified me of a nearby Panera (aka BreadCo) every time I went by South Grand made its use seem inevitable.  So when C-Bear and I were trying to decide where to get a quick bite a couple of Fridays ago, I suggested BreadCo.

Here are some good things about the experience:
  • Since Google Wallet allows you to store loyalty cards (kinda like Passbook, I had my member number ready.  On the other hand, I was a little disappointed that they had to manually enter the number, and didn't scan the barcode.  It didn't really seem any easier than looking me up by phone number.
  • The transaction worked...eventually.

And now some not-so-good things:
  • In order to get into the app, I have to enter my super-long PIN to unlock the phone, and then a shorter PIN to unlock the app (yes, this is all my doing).  Not wanting to hold up the phantom line, I made sure I had done this all ahead of time...and then nervously held my phone the whole time I was ordering, making sure the screen didn't go to sleep.  It would have been more convenient to have an Apple Pay type flow, where you just hold your phone to the terminal and scan your fingerprint, and the rest of the magic happens in the background.  But I guess the pseudo benefit of having my Panera number ready would have required unlocking my phone anyway.
  • The first tap didn't work - not sure if I pulled the phone away too quickly after the aural notification.  But then when I tried again and kept the phone pressed to the terminal for several seconds, it kept repeatedly making the way-too-loud-and-annoying transaction commencement sound.  Even though the transaction went through this time, the "ordeal" of potentially looking like a noisy techno-fool was almost traumatizing.  The app should be smart enough to figure out that it has already started making a transaction, and that it doesn't need to keep making sounds.  I'm pretty sure Apple Pay is also better in this regard.

In the end, I guess Google Wallet works for tap-and-pay.  But I'm not exactly champing at the bit to use it again - it didn't seem any more efficient than looking up my membership with my phone number and the paying with a card.  That being said, I wouldn't mind trying again in a low-pressure situation (i.e., no observers) to see if there is a way to make things go smoother.

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