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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Google Wallet Is Back, for Some Reason

Surprise, Google’s got a new app. OK, you’re probably not all that surprised. Google has always had an on-again, off-again relationship with the housemade apps that Android phones use to access its services. Specifically, Google often likes to make big changes to them, rebrand them, or just suddenly kill them dead with little explanation. The latest Google app update is actually a resurrection: Google Wallet has returned to store all your cards and personal info.

“But wait,” you ask, “isn’t Google Pay a thing? Doesn’t it already do that?” Well yes, it does. In fact, back when the Google Pay app launched, it replaced the old versions of Google Wallet and Android Pay on mobile phones. But at its IO event in May, Google announced it was bringing Wallet back with some new features that aren’t included with Pay.

Here are the differences. Google Pay can store credit card info and link to digital payment services like PayPal. It can also hold airline boarding passes, proof of vaccination cards, and some transit cards. The new Google Wallet can also do all of those things, plus store your driver’s license and unlock your car if you drive a vehicle that supports digital keys.

The Google Pay app on your phone will be replaced by the Google Wallet app soon, and all your payment info and other stuff you have stored in Google Pay will show up in Google Wallet. Google will also scrub your email for gift cards or any company’s loyalty programs you’re enrolled in. (For example, when I first logged into Google Wallet, it instantly pulled up my Southwest Airlines rapid rewards number, a thing I had completely forgotten I had.) Just know that if you delete the emails containing that info, then those data will disappear from Wallet.

For most countries, these new features will just be added as updates to the existing Google Pay app. But if you’re in the US or Singapore, Wallet and Pay will be two separate apps going forward. Confusing? Yes. Quintessentially Google? Very much so. It’s especially odd considering Google mashed together two of its video chat apps just last month.

If you’re confused, just get and use the Google Wallet app. It has the newest features, it feels very much like Google Pay, and it can be used for purchases everywhere Google Pay is accepted.

As much of a headache as it may be to keep track of the constantly changing apps, switching from an analog wallet to the digital Wallet (or the similar Apple Wallet if you’re on iPhone) is a good idea. These digital wallets keep everything organized, encrypt your purchases, and offer more security than an easily misplaced piece of leather stuffed with a stack of credit cards.

Here’s some more gear news from around the web.

Galaxy Unpacked Is Nigh (Again)

Samsung announced that its Galaxy Unpacked event will take place Wednesday, August 10. It's the biannual ceremony that Samsung uses to reveal its updated phones and devices. (Yes, there was just an Unpacked event in February.) Expect to see new Galaxy phones and tablets. In the invitation images, Samsung is teasing at least one new foldable thingamajig.

Samsung says that of all the foldables it has sold, 70 percent of those have been Galaxy Flip models. It’s the smaller, more phone-sized device of the bunch, and since it’s done so well, chances are we’ll see more from Samsung in similar form factors. Stay tuned on the day of the event for WIRED’s coverage of everything Samsung will announce.

Prime-ary Care

Unlike its ever-shrinking namesake, Amazon the company just keeps expanding. This week, the empire spawned of Bezos announced it had acquired One Medical, a company that provides health care services online and in-person to subscribing patients in over a dozen US cities. The nearly $4 billion dollar deal gives Amazon access to the data of nearly 800,000 patients across the US. That said, Amazon might have its hands full with One Medical’s rocky history. The company faced a scandal last year when it was accused of prioritizing giving Covid vaccines to leadership and other higher-ups over people who were more at risk.

Many may point to the irony in Amazon’s sudden investment in people’s health, seeing how the company is currently under investigation by federal prosecutors for safety violations in its warehouses.

Facebook’s Funky Future

Facebook may have changed its name to Meta, but that hasn’t kept the controversies from sticking to the company. Lately, Facebook has decided to yet again change the way its activity feeds work, in an effort to catch up with TikTok. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is getting deposed again over a lawsuit resulting from the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal. And Amazon is suing admins of more than 10,000 Facebook groups due to alleged fake reviews. Then there’s whatever is going on with Facebook’s vision for the metaverse.

Joining this week’s Gadget Lab podcast are Shirin Ghaffary from Recode and Alex Heath with The Verge. They talk about the big decisions from Facebook’s early days that led to the company’s tumultuous transformation to Meta, and what lies ahead for the platform—and everyone who uses it.

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