Verizon is screwing with Google Wallet again. After originally just saying it wouldn't officially support it at all, it relented a little bit and allowed it onto the Galaxy Nexus last month, and now it's taking that back. Google Wallet has never officially been available for Verizon, on any smartphone. However for months now users have been able to side-load Google’s awesome Wallet app for mobile NFC payments using the web store, downloading the apk or installing a custom ROM. However recently Verizon and Google pulled the plug. Verizon Wireless had this to say to Engadget.com ; VZW reiterated its previous statement that "Verizon doesn't block applications. Google Wallet is different from other widely-available m-commerce services. Google Wallet does not simply access the operating system and basic hardware of our phones like thousands of other applications. Instead, in order to work as architected by Google, Google Wallet needs to be integrated into a new, secure and proprietary hardware element in our phones." As we all know there is no software or hardware stopping this phone from using this application other then Verizon or Google. I am sick of this they are our phones that we pay TOP dollar for we deserve to be able to use what WE want on them, NOT BE FORCED TO USE WHAT APPLICATIONS OUR CARRIER WANTS. Now, I know: According to Verizon, it isn't actually "blocking" anything. But I'm not one to play corporate word games. Whatever you want to call it, Verizon was actively trying to keep its customers from installing tethering apps, and it's still actively trying to keep them from installing the Google Wallet app. To me and most of the world that's effectively blocking. Sources make it clear that Verizon went to Google and filed formal requests to keep the app from appearing in the official Android app market for anyone on its network. And in a settlement in August, the FCC said Verizon didn't have the right to do that: As part of the carrier's purchase of special "C Block" wireless spectrum in 2008, it agreed to "not deny, limit, or restrict the ability of [its] customers to use the devices and applications of their choice." The ultimate question, then, is whether that usage of the "secure storage area of the phone" is the same thing as the "new, secure and proprietary hardware element" Verizon describes -- and if so, whether that actually justifies Verizon's decision to limit access to the application.
Some people have their doubts: Free Press, the same organization that filed the complaint at the center of this week's tethering-based settlement, has already asked the FCC to investigate Verizon's handling of the Google Wallet app. In a letter sent to the FCC last December (PDF), the organization suggested Verizon might be limiting access to Google Wallet for competitive reasons -- in order to push customers to its own mobile payment system, a soon-to-launch service called ISIS.
"According to the facts available at this time, it seems that Verizon Wireless likely is abusing its gatekeeper control over a substantial percentage of the national market for mobile Internet users in order to block a third-party competitor," Free Press stated in its letter. "Such a textbook example of anti-competitive behavior poses significant harm to consumers and to innovation on the Internet."
Free Press made a direct correlation with Verizon's stance on tethering, too, saying the Wallet situation "appear[ed] to be consistent with [the carrier's] practices to limit access to third-party tethering applications" -- and that, like with the tethering scenario, the carrier's limitation of access to the Wallet app appeared to be in direct violation of its open app license obligations.
At face value, recent remarks made by the FCC seem to support that sentiment. In the organization's announcement of this week's tethering-related settlement, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski stated:
The open device and application obligations were core conditions when Verizon purchased the C-block spectrum. The massive innovation and investment fueled by the Internet have been driven by consumer choice in both devices and applications. The steps taken today will not only protect consumer choice, but defend certainty for innovators to continue to deliver new services and apps without fear of being blocked.
For now, though, the Google Wallet situation will remain at a standstill -- and, at least for the moment, Verizon will continue to take steps to keep Google Wallet out of its customers' hands. For the resourceful and determined, of course, finding an unofficial workaround isn't difficult -- but on the official front, Verizon's arms will remain crossed and its gates closed.
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