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Google Wallet appears in India with local integration, but Pay will remain

Google Wallet will finally launch in India – nearly two years after the digital wallet platform was relaunched in the United States, according to an app preview the company inadvertently released on India’s Google Play Store.

After TechCrunch spotted a listing for the app — which will allow users to load up loyalty cards and buy stuff, among other features — the company declined to confirm whether the app would be rolling out to Android users anytime soon. But then it seemed to drop some details from the list, such as a high-profile local launch partner in India. (The app is now more commonly branded in the United States.)

Somewhat confusingly, Google did confirm to us that it will continue to run Google Pay as a standalone app in the country, at least for now. This is a different strategy from almost every other market, where Google has been merging the Wallet and Payments experiences under one Wallet app.

“While we don’t have anything new to share right now, we are always working hard to bring more convenience to people’s digital experience in India. We will continue to invest in the Google Pay app to enable people to make digital payments easily and securely.” a Google spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch.

From what we understand, part of the reason appears to be that Google Pay is already huge in the country – India is widely considered to be Google’s largest payments market in the world, and the second-largest payments app after PhonePe.

Especially since Google has confirmed that it plans to continue offering Google Pay as its payment service in India, the Indian version of Google Wallet is expected to be different from the US version. For one, Google wants to offer native integration on the wallet app in a country that has the largest Android user base.

A Google Wallet listing spotted by TechCrunch last week included screenshots of Indian airline Air India, state-run lender State Bank of India and diversified chain PVR Inox, suggesting that loyalty points can be earned and spent through these brands. (Google updated its list of U.S. brands shortly after TechCrunch contacted it for comment.)

Google Wallet briefly appeared on Play Store in India

Image Source: Google Play Store screenshot

According to Indian outlet Beebom, the existing Google Wallet app is not yet available for download through the Play Store in India, but the app has been available to some Android users in the country for some time. However, functionality is limited: users can add credit and debit cards for contactless payments, but the app does not support any Indian businesses and local loyalty programs.

These latest changes end a lot of backlash that Google has made between various financial services and different branded apps. Google Wallet was launched as the company’s payment solution back in 2011. Later, Google launched Android Pay. It then tried to replace Wallet and its Android Pay app with Google Pay. In 2022, Google relaunched the Wallet app as its digital wallet platform for Android, Wear OS, and Fitbit OS. However, in February this year, the search giant announced that it would replace Google Pay with the Wallet app in the United States

Unlike the US version, Google Pay in India uses the Indian government-backed framework Unified Payments Interface (UPI) to enable payments. This is one of the reasons why Google Pay is unique in India, and one of the reasons why it may choose to continue to offer a separate option to those who already use Google Pay.

Google Pay is the second most used UPI app in India after Walmart’s PhonePe, giving Google a clear reason to continue supporting it while also providing a digital wallet-related experience through the Wallet app. According to data released by UPI parent company National Payments Corporation of India, the Google Pay app initiated more than 5 billion transactions worth more than $83 billion in March.

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