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By Beth Bacheldor

Google Strikes Deal With Carriers, Acquires Softcard's NFC-enabled Payment Technology

Google has announced that it has acquired technology and intellectual property from mobile payments company Softcard, and that it has partnered with AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless, in an effort to help more Android users get the benefits of using a smartphone's built-in Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to pay for purchases in stores. Ariel Bardin, Google's VP of payments, wrote in a blog post this week that the relationship means that the Google Wallet app, including the tap-and-pay functionality, will come pre-installed on Android phones (running KitKat or higher) sold by these carriers in the United States later this year. Google Wallet's tap-and-pay feature debuted in 2011, Bardin wrote, and can be used on Android devices, on any carrier network, to tap and pay anywhere that NFC payment technology is supported.

Softcard was founded in 2010 by AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless (see Mobile Carriers Launch Venture to Aid Adoption of NFC in Phones). In a blog post on its site, the company said the deal with Google will not impact current Softcard customers for now.

"Users can continue to tap to pay, redeem offers and apply loyalty at more than 275,000 locations across the U.S.," the company indicated in an FAQ on its site. "Google has acquired some technology and intellectual property from Softcard and we encourage our Android users to download Google Wallet. In the near future, the Softcard app will shut down and all wallets will be terminated. A specific termination date will be provided soon."

Softcard also stated in the FAQ that in order to use Google Wallet, current Softcard customers will need to separately sign up for a Google Wallet account and enter details about their payment and loyalty card accounts. Any information that customers have already shared with Softcard will not be shared as part of this deal, and once the Softcard wallet is terminated (which the company says will happen automatically in the near future), Softcard wallet payment credentials and loyalty cards will no longer be usable. In addition, the Softcard for Windows Phone app will also be terminated, and the company says it will provide a specific termination date soon.

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