updated 09:14 pm EST, Wed December 4, 2013
Users can add credit cards simply by taking a picture of it
Google has updated its Google Wallet application for iOS, allowing users to add credit or debit cards simply by taking a picture of it using the built-in camera on a user's iPhone. The update also adds instant sign-in if users are already logged into any other Google service or site that supports single sign-on, and users can utilize the physical Google Wallet card at most MasterCard locations as well as withdraw cash from any ATM. The app also stores various loyalty and reward cards and can be disabled online if the users' phone is stolen.
The Google Wallet service was originally Android-only and dependent on the Near-Field Communication (NFC) feature used by some models of smartphone, but the company has abandoned that approach as it was severely limiting use. NFC as a technology has gone nowhere, and has generally having failed to catch on against traditional systems and other competitors like Square. Finding a solution that worked more universally -- through an app compatible with the iOS user base, and by making a physical card that can be accessed through ATMs and traditional payment machines in a deal with MasterCard -- may have saved the service.
The iPhone-oriented iOS version of the app first appeared in September, and features PIN security, fraud monitoring and purchase protection alongside remote disabling of the app. Users can transfer money to and from their account to traditional bank accounts or "send money" to another Google Wallet user's email address.
For the most part, the service is fee-free apart from a 2.9 percent (minimum 30 cents) transaction fee when loading the Wallet balance from, or sending money with, credit or debit cards. ATM transactions may also incur bank fees, but Google itself doesn't charge a fee for ATM use at present.