While there aren’t too many merchants that accept NFC payments (that’s soon going to change) there are probably even fewer devices that come with Google Wallet pre-installed. Maybe that’s why there hasn’t been much commotion over a potentially huge issue some Google Wallet users have been facing over in our forums.
One such Google Wallet user is having difficulty getting the app up and running again, after performing a routine factory reset on his HTC EVO 4G LTE. It all started after an app (Sense) began force closing repeatedly. Normally, under a situation like this when things start acting awry, a factory reset has long been the go-to method for fixing up a device’s software issues good as new. Anyone who has ever contacted tech support when dealing with a software issue knows this well. But that’s actually what started this whole mess.
While the factory reset managed to fixed up the little Sense crashing issue, it actually managed to disable all Google Wallet functionality on the device. Keep in mind, this all happened without any kind of warning, prompt or popup that this could potentially kill Google Wallet purchases from his device (a common selling point for NFC enabled devices) forever.
After a quick call to Google to find a solution, their response? Your fault. You need warranty coverage and your device will have to be replaced on your dime. When it comes to NFC enabled devices, there’s a security mechanism inside the NFC portion of the phone called the “secure element” that, if tampered with — or in this case a simple factory reset — will brick it, causing a “secure element error” when attempting to make NFC purchases Google thinks this common method of fixing up issues on the phone and also required before re-selling a device, is some kind of an attempt at someone engaging in some kind of nefarious activities by attempting to gain access to your funds.
And this isn’t unique to the EVO 4G LTE either. A quick Google search will show you this is a common issue for any NFC based device currently using Google Wallet (yes, even the Galaxy Nexus) and has been going on for quite sometime. The problem is Google, as well as the manufacturers with Google Wallet enabled devices (Samsung, HTC, LG), should at the very least warn Wallet users — either with a prompt or upon opening the Google Wallet app — that performing a factory reset will completely kill all Google Wallet functionality in the handset, and the device will need to be replaced (although Android Beam and NFC tags work fine).
However, there is a method for preventing or fixing the issue. For prevention, just make sure that before you perform a factory reset, you go into your Google Wallet’s settings (inside the app itself) and click on the option to “Reset Google Wallet.” This will delete all payment information from the device and you can factory reset to your heart’s desire. Fixing the issue is a little more difficult. This requires someone who is experiencing the bricked secure element (after flashing a custom ROM) to restore a backed up ROM (before everything went down) and reset the Google Wallet app from inside the app’s settings. No backup? No dice.
As someone who often (always) recommends friends and family perform a factory reset when their devices are acting “funny” — as well as a chronic custom ROM flasher — I’m glad I found this information when I did. Lest my friends, family or I be forced with a device crippled with reduced functionality. Spread the word, Phandroids. Oh, and be extra careful when buying previously owned Google Wallet devices.