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Google is finally launching the Google Wallet today after its initial introduction almost 4 months ago. Partners are receiving a notice telling them that the NFC (near-field communications) tap-to-pay service will be ready to use anywhere a MasterCard PayPass terminal is active. TechCrunch reported that the service is only available on Nexus S 4G that runs Android 2.3.4. More NFC phones will get the service in the coming days.
Users who don’t take advantage of the Google-branded card will have to use Citi-supplied MasterCards at first and Google hinted that other banks’ MasterCards would work in time.
The launch is timed with the start of NFC World Congress in France. It also comes several weeks before the expected Nexus Prime. Google is presumed to be using the Ice Cream Sandwich-loaded phone as a technology showcase and would want at least the Sprint version of the phone to support Google Wallet, if not Verizon and other US carriers.
Google Wallet should be the first truly national NFC-based mobile payment system in the US and, while limited, will beat the multi-carrier Isis system by several months.