Google Wallet rollout going 'kind of slow,' Google rep says

And adding credit cards to Google Wallet is slower than normal

Google Wallet has run into technical glitches, although the extent of the problems is not clear.

Google's Web site says the new mobile payment service is having "slower than normal wait times to add [credit and debit] cards to Google Wallet."

Also, Google Wallet over-the-air updates to Nexus S smartphones are going slowly and the app did not reach all users by late Friday, when Google had said the update would be rolled out.

A Google Help Desk representative named Dave said via phone on Saturday at 7:36 a.m. (ET): "The [Google Wallet] rollout is kind of a slow rollout. They are still working on that. There's no specific time frame for when it will be complete. You should see it soon."

Computerworld called the Help Desk to see why a Nexus S phone in hand had not received the Google Wallet by Friday night, four days after Google Wallet was officially launched.

Two Google spokesmen were asked to comment on the status of the rollout and the wait times for adding cards to Google Wallet, but did not respond as of mid-day Saturday.

Bob Egan, a mobile commerce analyst at The Sepharim Group, said the rollout probems "are a really big deal.... It shows Google's preparation for launch isn't production ready, especially in the context of a payments market" where security and customer expectations are heightened.

"If setting up Google Wallet is complex, unreliable or leaves consumers unexcited, where they find themselves asking, 'Why did I do this?' then Google Wallet will be stillborn," Egan added.

A Google spokeswoman had said Wednesday, that "100% of users should have the update by EOD Friday" after earlier saying the update would be completed on Wednesday.

Google launched Google Wallet on Monday, saying there would be an over-the-air rollout of the Google Wallet app and that the service was "now available on Nexus S 4G on Sprint."

A Sprint spokesman referred inquiries about the rollout to Google. Other partners in the venture could not be reached to comment.

Lengthy wireless software rollouts are common, usually taking several days so networks won't get jammed, analysts said. Google and various Android smartphone wireless carriers have come under fire for requiring Android OS version updates, but mainly for promising the rollouts would start at a certain time and then delaying the start of the rollout.

Consumer Reports blogged on Wednesday that Google had rushed to get the first digital wallet on the market, adding that Google's "promotional promises seem to have gotten a little ahead of themselves."

Such a delay might not normally be a concern, except that Google and its partners -- Sprint, MasterCard, Citi and First Data -- put enormous time and money into the Google Wallet app.

The idea of being first in the U.S. with a major rollout using Near Field Communications technology inside smartphones is notable. The stakes are high: the long-term future of mobile wallets is expected to be lucrative, worth many billions of dollars in the U.S., to banks that collect transaction fees and to technology companies such as Google that receive revenues for making coupons and other offers available to users.

Analysts questioned how serious the delay really is, and how many users are already connected. They also questioned whether the wait times for adding credit cards could be a sign of a bigger problem with the complex network, systems and the money exchange infrastructure behind Google Wallet.

The Google Wallet Web site first posted a notice on Wednesday of the problem in adding credit cards to the app, the same notice that was still live today.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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