This month, Google announced some sweeping changes to its payment services, which had become a little confused, and confusing.
First of all Google has merged its “Pay” and Pay Send” apps, so now there is just one service and platform that allows users to request, or send money from and to contacts. The service is only available to users in the US, but a blog post from Google suggests that the service will soon be available in the UK.
What does this mean in real terms? It means that Google Pay users will be able to find and click on recent purchases; the example given in the post is a restaurant bill; and instantly request a payment from as many as 5 different people.
Next Google has made it possible to sync payment info across different devices, so if you add a new credit, debit or store loyalty card on your desktop computer, the changes will be reflected on your mobile device; no matter whether it’s Android or iOS; and you will be able to add the cards to your mobile app and pay using your phone at participating stores.
Google Pay also has a new “Home” tab which displays recent purchases, offers, and even provides handy hints and tips. Directions to nearby stores, and a chance to store all those loyalty, discount and frequent shopper cards all in one place and pay using each one as as and when you need it.
It’s handy stuff, and if you are in the business of accepting payments as a store owner or manager rather than making them, Google will help with that also, providing developer tools, “processor partners” and even partnering with Shopify for the most seamless integration yet.
Verdict? Nice-to-Have Rather Than Must-Have
All in all, the new App (which can be downloaded here) is undoubtedly a useful resource, probably best suited to millennials, who are used to “disruptive” payment apps and often use “challenger” bank accounts (like Monzo, Starling, or Atom) to manage their spending; taking advantage of itemised, real-time data which can be categorised to keep track of different lifestyle pursuits; paying bills, seeing friends, or clothes-shopping, for example.
That said, there is nothing truly exciting or game-changing about Google’s service. Unless you genuinely prefer to use your smartphone to pay for services, rather than a card, or have real trouble understanding your bank’s statements, or do an awful lot of shopping online, Google’s app, in our view, is a “nice” or “convenient”-to-have, rather than a must have. It’s great that Google Pay, which has now fully replaced Android Pay, is there for us all, but Google is not itself a bank, and as such is only able to offer a “vanilla” set of features and services.
Where we think things are getting interesting is on the peer-to-peer payments side however. There is intense competition in this space, from the likes of Apple, Facebook, WhatsApp, and dedicated banking apps. Micro-payments are big business, if enough people are making them, and in populous countries such as India, or China, people are.
Is Google Set Fair For International Payments Services?
The next goal for Google could be international money transfers. There are plenty of apps in the marketplace that can be used to transfer money to friends or families overseas; TransferWise, MPesa in Africa, WorldFirst, Azimo, whilst giants like WeChat and Ant Financial are offering overseas services in China and across Asia.
But, Google has the advantage of being able to scale its services super-fast, and address billions of users at once. If Google does finally get around to rolling out an international money transfer service, this will give the company a significant competitive advantage – and we haven’t even mentioned how economies of scale will help Google offer ultra-competitive low rates and advantageous exchange rates. Watch this space, perhaps?
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