Latest Google Wallet update doesn’t fix original problem, NFC payments still at the mercy of carriers


Yesterday, we reported on the new and improved Google Wallet. The new update brought Google Wallet to all Android users running Gingerbread (2.3) or higher, something only small handful of devices were able to run in the past.

Besides wider availability, the Google Wallet update brought on a newly designed user interface (HOLOYOLO), new capabilities such as sending money to friends a-la PayPal, the ability to view offers based on your location and some nice features for loyalty and rewards cards. What the update didn’t do is fix the original problem with NFC payments — they’re still at the mercy of carriers.

Verizon Moto X - No NFC Payments

If you wish to use Tap and Pay (NFC payments) you’ll need to have a device with a secure element and a device that is on a supported carrier. At this time, these are the only available Android devices that can take advantage of the most sought out feature of Google Wallet.


  • Motorola Moto X on Sprint and US Cellular.
  • HTC One SV (running Android 4.1 or higher) on Boost Mobile.
  • HTC One® on Sprint.
  • HTC EVO 4G LTE on Sprint.
  • LG Viper 4G LTE on Sprint and Zact Mobile.
  • LG Optimus Elite on Sprint, Virgin Mobile and Zact Mobile.
  • LG Nexus 4 GSM/HSPA+ on Google Play.
  • Samsung Galaxy Note® II on Sprint and US Cellular.
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 on Sprint, US Cellular, and Google Play.
  • Samsung Nexus S 4G on Sprint.
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus on Sprint.
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus GSM/HSPA+.
  • Samsung Galaxy Victory 4G LTE on Sprint and Virgin Mobile.
  • Samsung Galaxy SIII on Sprint, MetroPCS, US Cellular, Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile.
  • Samsung Galaxy Axiom on US Cellular.


Who or what is to blame?

If you’re starting to notice a trend from the above list of officially supported devices, you’re not alone. Customers who use AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile aren’t able to use Wallet’s NFC payments feature. Sadly, nothing has really changed since Wallet’s initial release. But hey, if you’re on one of those 3 carriers, why not try ISIS Mobile Wallet? ISIS is the mobile payments solution developed by all 3 carriers to compete with Google Wallet. It’s slowly, and I mean slowly, rolling out to more users.

If you don’t remember, legal expert Jay Klimek challenged this issue with Verizon by submitting a complaint to the FCC. It’s his belief that Verizon has no right to block Google Wallet access under Block-C spectrum rules. Quentyn also questioned Verizon’s motives in a previous article, wondering why Verizon allowed ISIS to pass the mystery certification that allowed them access to their devices’ “secure element.”

OEMs have been moving the secure element — a hardware-based security feature — from NFC to the SIM card and other embedded components, which effectively gets them off the hook for having to support Google Wallet. It’s the same reason why the 2012 Nexus 7 can use NFC payments in Google Wallet, yet the latest 2013 version can’t. It’s quite silly, and it’s a trend we hope will die.

Google Wallet as we know it dying?

In Google’s case, not including a secure element within the Nexus 7  2013 could be seen as a sign of defeat, as their vision of Google Wallet (that is, one that is heavily-focused on mobile payments using NFC) seems to be fading by the second. Perhaps that was the whole reason for the latest update, which represents a huge shift in focus to Google’s Offers program and loyalty rewards cards.

Verizon obviously isn’t the only carrier under our fire here, but their past actions and statements regarding this issue make us question the validity of their stance, as well as that of all the other carriers (and their partners) who have effectively given Google Wallet the shaft. Perhaps we’d think differently if they weren’t in bed with ISIS, but that’s where we still stand today.

Does seeing your phone’s make and model listed above, yet not having the right carrier attached, boil your blood? Let me know. Let Google know. Let the carriers know. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

[Source: Google Support]

Derek Ross
I'm a passionate Android enthusiast that's on the pulse of the latest Android news, writing about Android as often as possible. I'm also a little addicted to social networking. Hit me up, I'd love to chat.

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  1. I’m able to use tap and pay on a stock VZW GNex. I tried it at a vending machine at work (which didn’t work), but when I tried it at McDonald’s it worked just fine.

    1. That is the only device as far as I know that contained the secure element on Verizon.
      I used it myself when I had one and it did work just fine.
      The carriers latest trend are to not have the hardware included on the device rendering Google Wallet useless.

      Edit: clarify first sentence

      1. I don’t think the Gnex has the secure element actually. It just predates the secure element so Verizon couldn’t do much to stop it (even though they certainly tried). In any event, all the secure element really is, is a freakin’ SIM card with an additional chip. Even then, I have a Moto Droid Razr HD and if I had the special SIM card it would still block Wallet because Google Wallet can’t use Verizon’s “secure element” on the SIM. It’s a devilish catch 22 engineered by Verizon to screw over Google Wallet; they blame the reason Google Wallet isn’t working on the fact that it doesn’t use their secure element, but Google Wallet can’t use the element because Verizon designed it to only work with ISIS. So they get off the hook by making it look like Google doesn’t want to make Wallet work on the secure element, and they get their petty monopoly on NFC payments with ISIS. It’s the biggest load of BS on business side of politics.

        1. It does have a “secure element”… a software one tied to the NFC, not the hardware one’s built into a SIM card. That’s why GNex users (not just Verizon GNex) could permanently hose Wallet by doing a factory reset before clearing Wallet’s data… it would permanently corrupt the software “secure element”.

          I tried Wallet on my Verizon GNex a couple times… payments always failed for me and I gave up on it.

  2. Isis requires a sim card as far as I know.

    There are a lot of devices that lack the secure element like the HTC One for this to even work, and that is because of the carriers.
    I guess they figured they could do an end run by putting it in the sim to cut Google out.

    It’s dirty pool, and it reflects why the carriers should be removed from the handset design process and this should be left up to manufacturers.

    1. Sure, ISIS does require that, however, the HTC One on Sprint has a secure element so obviously other carriers asked HTC to make the change on their variants.

      1. The secure element on Verizon is the SIM card (a specially designed one apparently that doesn’t come standard on most devices). I’m wondering if Sprint has put in the so-called “secure element” in all of their SIM cards. In any event, even if I had the special SIM card on Verizon they would still be blocking Wallet because it doesn’t work with their stupid “secure element”.

        1. Wallet does NOT use the hardware “secure element” built into SIM cards, it’s a software “secure element” that is tied to the NFC.

          1. That’s not what they said about using ISIS last time I checked.

  3. It’s practices like this from carriers that make people root. I’m using a galaxy on T-Mobile and can’t wait till November when my contract is up. I’m buying the nexus 5 whenever it comes out and finding my cheapest carrier in my area. Republic here I come.

    1. Though unfortunately rooting doesn’t guarantee Wallet will work. It varies model to model, and carrier to carrier eve then. I’ve heard of some people having success with the GS3, and Note II, but Moto users like me have been left high and dry by both Verizon and by the root community.

  4. Well, the carries is ONE issue. The other issue, which I think is bigger, is unless you eat at McDonalds and do all of your shopping at CVS its about useless. Nobody has implemented the NFC enabled POS machines or, if they have them they haven’t turned them on.

    1. I used to use my Galaxy Nexus at a local Pizza shop every other week or so and every week at a gas station chain (Sheetz). There are no CVS’s here.

      1. Sheetz? Someone is from Pennsylvania area.

        1. No Sheetz. ;-)

        2. Not necessarily, I’m in NC and we have Sheetz gas stations here.

      2. That gas station food will give you the Sheetz

        1. You would be surprised how good Sheetz food is. The main one in Altoona PA has become a sit down restaurant as well.

    2. NFC payments have been around for a while my american express card has had a chip for over 10 years that will do NFC tap to pay payments. there are a lot of places that still require a swipe of the card but there are probably just as many that do NFC now too

      1. I wish, Atlanta isnt that way.

    3. Almost every gas station in my town disagrees with you.

      1. Congrats, even the Shell stations that sometimes have it dont have it on their pumps and nobody else has it.

  5. “Why not try Isis Mobile Wallet?”
    Because Isis is functionally inept. Because I don’t have a Chase or Amex credit card. The limited functionallity is just lame.

    1. Yeah, except it’s not any more functionally inept than Google Wallet. FFS, look at the list of tap-eligible phones.

      The fact that ISIS just works (once you have the SIM and activate the account) is a big measure in its favor for me. I gave up on Wallet months ago and got ISIS. Of course, it helps substantially that I am a Chase Freedom holder.

      I get the disdain for ISIS as an extension of the disdain for carrier involvement in the crippling of NFC payments- I really do. That aside, though, there’s absolutely no reason *not* to use ISIS if you want to use NFC payment functionality. It’s not like you’re having to pay a per-tap charge to the carrier or anything.

      1. The disdain is not just in the carrier locking, but in the fact that if they wanted to do make an alternative, at least do it right. Make it work with at least all Mastercard/Visa credit/debit cards. I mean come on, just two stinking creit cards…really!!!! That’s what the outrage is all about.

        1. Meh. They haven’t even rolled it out beyond SLC and Austin yet. If they do the national roll-out and don’t add additional cards, I’ll see that point of view. Right now, the thing is essentially still a beta. It’s taken much longer than I’d have liked for it to take off (I don’t live in either of those markets, but I managed to locate a SIM), but I much prefer their approach to Google’s at this point.

          I get this, too- Google can do little to no wrong to most of those who post here. They’ve not done much right with Wallet up to now, though. Of course, I’m also one who believes Google carries fault in much the same way Verizon, AT&T, and TMobile carry fault for the absence of wallet. But keep up the crusade against the carriers, guys- it’s worked well thus far. o.0

          1. Let’s see…

            Wallet: Works with almost any credit card, in lots of stores, fast food places, and gas stations all over the country.
            ISIS: Works with two specific credit cards, in a few stores, in two cities. It’s been stuck in “beta” for a very long time now.

            Which one do you think would be useful to more people?

          2. Neither of them are particularly useful to many people. ISIS probably has the advantage for the number of distinct handsets on which it can function. While the beta for ISIS is only official in two cities, I clearly pointed out above that it works outside of those markets. Everywhere I was able to get Wallet to work, ISIS has worked. It’s marginally disingenuous to say ISIS works in a few stores in two cities.

            It comes down to which credit cards one has, as well as their tolerance for hackery to enable Wallet vs the ability to locate an ISIS SIM. For usability by your average person, both are about equally accessible. Don’t misunderstand me, though, as I’m not implying that either are particularly accessible. I lay blame at the feet of both companies for dragging this out for so long.

  6. Tap and pay works on my verizon Galaxy nexus.

    1. Same for me. I was able to use Tap & Pay in a local Walgreens yesterday on a Verizon Galaxy Nexus. I’m wondering if it’s because I updated to the new version from a previously side-loaded version?

      1. I haven’t had it installed in months.

      2. Never worked for me, but it’s been quite some time since I last tried it.

    2. That’s good to know, seeing as it’s listed as not officially supported. I would have guessed it wouldn’t work without build.prop edits or a modified APK. Thanks.

      1. I tried my GNex at Walgreens last night and no dice.

        1. you got to get the apk from like xda. side load it and never update in play store. i havent tried this new one yet but i will at Mcdonalds on my break.

          1. I have the latest version straight from the play store & it says it should work for tap to pay. Haven’t tried it yet though.

        2. I never had luck at Walgreens when i had the old APK that worked. The Blue terminal thingy does not work.

        3. I work for Walgreens. Right now, only select markets have the paypass active. They’re testing to make sure it’s secure enough before they unlock all of the terminals. If I remember right, the only market I know of is New York that is active.

    3. same here works great on my Verizon galaxy nexus. can’t wait to try it more places

      1. same for me as well. mine is using cyanogenmod though.

    4. Me too

  7. First of all .. my opinion.. this is not Google’s fault that we can’t use NFC pay on Tmo, ATT and Verizon.
    It’s those 3 fault and them being determined to stick with ISIS which is a direct threat to Wallet.

    In a free market, which we believe we are, consumer should decide what payment method to chose and not companies sticking behind their payment system. Imagine what would happen if Walmart would only accept Walmart credit cards ?!

    Anyhow, this is a smart move from Google to allow application to be installed even if it’s crippled by the 3. I see this as the beginning of the end for ISIS and carrier domination. Capital One dropped off if you heard…

  8. I would love to use this, too bad it’s not implemented in Canada.

  9. Had this debate yesterday…

    Turns out? There is no API for the secure element. Google Wallet gets to it through a private API. That’s why ISIS doesn’t work on “any Android”, and can’t use an embedded Secure Element.

    The carriers need to let Wallet through, and Google needs to accept the SmartCard API patch that was submitted two years ago. Then we can move on.

    1. How when a simple build prop edit can allow it to work on a blocked carier

      1. Huh?

        Google can access the secure element because they have private access to the hardware. Their access to the secure element is not part of bare Android, so ISIS can’t work on a Nexus.

        Flip-wise, the carriers blocked the app because “if we aren’t allowed to access the Secure Element without the OEM having to add an API, then neither can you.”

        So both sides are playing dirty.

        Any phone with a secure element will work for Wallet with a build.prop change. But ones that don’t have the SmartCard API baked in by the OEM or a ROM can’t use ISIS (or if Chase wanted to make their own, or…)

  10. Where was this story yesterday? I didn’t upgrade my working Wallet on my S3 till yesterday’s story said this worked. A day later you break this bit of news? Thanks for that. I’ll restore my working wallet Nandroid now.

  11. Can someone please tell me why I get this message on my Nexus 7 (2012) when trying to update Google Wallet to 2.0?

    1. Maybe the update hasn’t rolled out to your device yet. Check again in a day or two?

  12. If I’m using an ATT-branded SIII on Metro PCS, can I use Tap & Pay?

    1. yey a metro user!!, my guess is maybe

      1. I’m not so sure. My first though would be that cos it’s ATT hardware, the answer is no. I wouldn’t expect it to be based on the sim that’s in there, but I’m not sure. What does surprise me is that the Metro SIII allows Tap & Pay yet T-Mobile doesn’t. The new Metro S3 comes with a sim card, the older Metro S3 (pre takeover) doesn’t, so maybe it’s that one that works.

        1. well my guess is because it is cdma they could put it in the sim with the lte

  13. Every time I see NFC payment systems (and especially the ones with the Google Wallet logo) I get a bad taste in my mouth for Verizon (my current carrier for better or worse, in this case worse). Salt Lake City, where I live, is pretty saturated with NFC payment options from generic NFC stations as well as ISIS branded stations. But I can’t even take advantage of ISIS because 1) you have to get a special SIM card, the so-called secure element. 2) ISIS only supports a handful of credit cards and I’m not going to go and sign up for yet another credit card just to help Verizon out after everything. When I could use my wife’s Nexus 7 tablet to pay via NFC but my phone is a useless brick when it comes to NFC it really boils my blood. Quite frankly if I had a hack to get around Verizon’s major douchebaggery I would have done it already, but even the hacks out there now seem to only work on some devices under specific conditions, making hacking a questionable endeavor at the moment.

    While I love My Droid Razr HD, and don’t regret the purchase (other than the fact that it ties me to Verizon), I will definitely consider going Nexus next time I go out for an upgrade. I’d rather take the initial hit to my pocket (but long term savings if I use a prepaid service) and be done with all the crap.

  14. The last time I used Google Wallet with NFC was last summer at Walgreens, and it worked fine, but I had to hack it on my rooted AT&T Galaxy S3 to get it working.

    Not worth the hassle, so I probably won’t use tap2pay again until the carriers and banks are done with their greed fight && apple finally includes NFC on their phones. So, maybe by 2015-16 we’ll be where Japan and other countries were a long time ago.

    1. This sums up my experience. Yes, it worked, but long ago and I’ve forgotten about it since.

      It looks more efficient than PayPal for sending money via email, but few people I know use Google Wallet, so most won’t appreciate my trying to pay them this way.

      Google wallet isn’t dying. But only because it hasn’t really lived yet..

  15. I have a Verizon Galaxy Nexus. I’m rooted and running CyanogenMod with an apk that worked for NFC before. I just updated Wallet, and it does say I have tap and pay abilities. I haven’t tested it out yet, though.

  16. Works for me on Verizon but it is slower than the previous app that I sideloaded

  17. Works fine on my VZW Galaxy Nexus. (Well, I haven’t used it in store, but it says tap and pay is ready)

  18. Works fine on my VZW Galaxy Nexus. (Well, I haven’t used it in store, but it says tap and pay is ready)

    1. I wonder if I sideload it onto my new LG G2 if it will work?

  19. I have the Verizon Galaxy Nexus, and I have access to tap and pay. I’m unrooted, but I did have Wallet installed from an APK before the update, which may account for this. Is anyone else in my position (not even necessarily with the Verizon Galaxy Nexus)?

    1. Same here. I have the same set up as you do and mine works just fine.

    2. Verizon Galaxy Nexus … rooted… shows tap to pay as available.

  20. Works for me and I got the app directly from the play store. Verizon Galaxy Nexus unrooted stock VZW.

    1. I was able to add and transfer money to wife’s account but I have not tested buying with NFC.
      Verizon Galaxy Nexus, CM10.2, side loaded.

  21. Maybe I’m missing something in your wording, but I think you may have it wrong. I have a Nexus 4. I CAN use NFC Tap to Pay when I’m in the US with my AT&T SIM installed. I CANNOT use the same phone in Canada when I have my Wind Mobile SIM installed. So, for some reason, the Nexus 4 works on AT&T. $0.02

    1. The Nexus 4 from Google Play is fully supported in the US. That’s correct.

  22. Working in T mobile / Samsung S4

  23. There’s also the annoying feature of those with rooted phones in order to put cyanogynmod or another ROM on their device are denied the ability to use the Google wallet NFC ability

  24. Verizon, you suck! Plain and simple! Your too big for your britches as my elders would say. Poor you, your whining like my kids-just because your not getting anything out of this for yourselves. Google cannot give in to this they cannot allow ‘the big 3’ to win another self entitlement. It’s an app, we choose to have it or not, we are paying the bill each month. You want my money, then provide the services I request.

  25. do not suggest ISIS to anyone. There are serious issues with that. Every carrier is at fault here, and should be shamed. It’s a terrible implementation and has lots and lots of security issues.

    That aside, you can sideload the app itself at any time on any device whether carrier supported or not.

  26. Yesterday 9/19/13 I installed Google wallet on my Samsung Galaxy Nexus Verizon phone.
    directly from the Google play store. running 4.2.2. using it without any problems.
    it just showed up as an update after not been able to use it for almost a year. I couldn’t setup the lockout to 15 min after to update so I uninstalled it and reinstalled and now runs great.

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