Google Wallet now allows any credit or debit card, cloud-based security

NFC payment terminal
Google Wallet gets a huge upgrade, but carriers continue to limit its potential

Google Wallet launched with big fanfare last year, but has made little progress in the months that followed, largely because the wireless payment service was limited to prepaid or Citibank-issued credit cards.

That changed on Wednesday with a new update to the Google Wallet app, which now allows adding credit or debit cards from Visa, Mastercard, or Discover.

What's more, Google Wallet offers to automatically import existing payment methods tied to your Google account.

The new cloud-based Wallet is also more secure, allowing users to remotely disable a lost or stolen device from any web browser as an extra layer of security on top of the existing four-digit PIN code.

Slow progress

Although Google's Wallet update is most welcome, it does little to circumvent the biggest challenge for the NFC-based mobile wallet service: U.S. carriers.

While third-place Sprint has largely embraced Google Wallet on its Android handsets, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile approached with extreme caution to date.

Worse yet, these carriers are instead pinning their hopes on the forthcoming ISIS payment system, which works similarly to Google Wallet - but without tying themselves into another relationship with the search giant.

Consumers have also been slow to adopt NFC-based payments, despite the fact that something like Google Wallet is actually more secure than a traditional credit card in many ways.

But for those ready to embrace the future, this week's version of Google Wallet finally lives up to some of the promise of last year's launch.

However, you need to have one of a few handsets that can take advantage of it, which include the unlocked GSM Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 7 tablet sold directly by Google Play.

Via Google, ZDNet