Google Adds a Little Shine to Its Wallet, But Stops Short of an Awaited Upgrade

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In fall, Google promised a forthcoming major upgrade of its mobile payment system, Google Wallet. Despite some improvements, it’s not here yet.

Instead, the company released a slight upgrade on Tuesday for Wallet — the program that allows users to combine store debit cards, gift cards, credit cards, and loyalty cards all onto a mobile device. Consumers tap it against devices at retail locations to make purchases.

The new version of the Android app, which originally launched in September 2011, has a new user interface and fixes that allow for better stability and battery life, NFCWorld.com reports. The new Wallet home screen features three tabs: “My Wallet,” “Transactions” and “Explore.” The latter showcases “featured” and “nearby” offers.[more]

However, it remains unclear when the completely new version will arrive. The Google Wallet website just touts a vague promise that it’s “coming soon.”

The long-awaited update could create a new payment option for millions of iPhone users worldwide. The current version of Wallet does not support the iPhone, but a new version is widely expected to. In Europe, the spread of Wallet was described late last year as halting.

Meanwhile, for those who were hoping that former Google Wallet team engineers Marc Freed-Finnegan and Jonathan Wall have been working to create a rival app at their startup… well, keep hoping. Instead, they are instead launching Index, a company that aims to “help retailers create a personalized shopping experience and offer vastly improved customer service,” according to Wired.com.

“It’s increasingly easier to buy the same item across many different retailers, so not only are companies competing on price, but also for the same customers,” Freed-Finnegan told the site. “Companies have to give a better experience than their competitor to win.”

So Index is collecting consumer information about how people shop and also finding ways to make it easy for consumers to redeem emailed coupons and discounts found through social networking sites like Facebook. With the stored data, salespeople will be able to give more informed recommendations to individual consumers.

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