While Google Wallet didn't exactly make the splash some had hoped it would, Google doesn't seem to be taking its failure lying down. It's stepping up its activity and taking its show on the road for a new test program with McDonald's. It all starts with four simple words: I'll Pay With Google.
When such a phrase is uttered at one of the 47 McDonald's locations currently running the test with Google-locations mostly in San Jose, at last report-users are then able to access the Hands Free option, which allows users to confirm payment through a photograph connected to the Google Hands Free payment app. It's a feature separate from both Google Wallet and Android Pay, and it uses a string of sensors-from Bluetooth Low Energy to Wi-Fi-to note when a user is close to a location where the option can be used.
The notion of using a picture-or a selfie-has been around for a while, but with Google backing it and McDonald's locations at least looking like they're interested in getting in on the action, it suggests that Google's version could prove well received. McDonald's has been eager for a mobile payment solution for some time, at last report, and this just may be the key link McDonald's needed.
Some here might think that this is part of McDonald's master plan to no longer need human workers; a mobile payment app to take payments, a machine to make burgers, robots to sweep up and boom, next to no labor except for the poor schmo who oversees the whole operation. That may ultimately be the case, but it's not immediately clear if it actually is. However, one thing is clear: if McDonalds actually does go this route, it's only a matter of time before everyone else steps up to at least bring in some kind of mobile payment option. Fast food is a fairly commoditized affair, and those who have an advantage generally won't have it for long if it's at all possible to replicate that advantage elsewhere.
Google might be in for a big new stream of business if the other major fast food names take a cue from McDonalds, turning to mobile payments-or to Hands Free in particular-to provide customers with a new service.