Google Wallet image

Google revealed this week that it’s revamping how tap-to-pay purchases, card management, and passes work on Android devices. It’s all a bit complicated, but generally sounds like an improvement.

Google Pay is already available on Android, which can be used for managing cards for digital purchases and tap-to-pay in stores, sending and receiving money from friends and family, and storing digital versions of some types of cards and passes (e.g. buss passes, rewards cards for retail stores, and so on). More recently, Google rolled out an entirely new Pay app, with a greater focus on organizing spending data and store rewards programs.

Google is switching up how payments work on Android again, and the exact experience will vary by country. In the United States and Singapore, the tap-to-pay and card scanning functionality will be moved to a separate Google Wallet app. That’s a bit confusing, especially for long-time Android fans (Google Pay’s previous name was also Google Wallet), but it mirrors Apple’s current strategy. iPhones have a Wallet app for storing loyalty cards, transport passes, drivers’ licenses, and other data on the phone, while Apple Pay exclusively handles card payments (both in-person and online).

Google Wallet worldwide rollout

The United States and Singapore will be the only two countries where Google Pay and Wallet will co-exist as two distinct apps, at least for now. India won’t receive the new Wallet app at all, and in the rest of the world, Google Wallet will entirely replace Pay.

The new Wallet app will still have all your payment cards for tap-to-pay, just like the current version of Google Pay, but the end goal is for the app to store everything you might keep in a physical wallet. That includes plane tickets, bus passes, store cards/rewards programs, gift cards, vaccine cards, temporary offers.

Much of that functionality is already possible with Pay, but Google wants Wallet to be more accessible — more phones will have a Wallet button on the lock screen (Pixels have it for Pay already), and related items will be grouped together in the app. Google used a concert as an example, where you might have parking tickets, event tickets, and food vouchers that should be organized in the same place. You’ll also be able to copy passes from Gmail and Google Photos to Wallet.

The good news is that any stores, apps, or services that work with Google Pay will keep working as normal in the new Wallet app. Google is also adding the ability for companies to store generic passes in Wallet that don’t fit into existing categories, and you have the option of using your phone’s camera to scan any existing barcode yourself and save them to Google Wallet (though results may vary).

Google is also hoping to add support for drivers’ licenses and other forms of government IDs in Wallet, but work on that feature has been ongoing for years. Apple just added support for U.S. state IDs and drivers’ licenses in the iPhone Wallet app last year, and Arizona was the first state to enable the feature in March.

Google Wallet will start rolling out to Android devices in the coming weeks.

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Corbin Davenport is the News Editor at How-To Geek, an independent software developer, and a podcaster. He previously worked at Android Police, PC Gamer, and XDA Developers.
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