The redesigned and reenvisioned Google Pay has been out for just over a year (outside of India), and while it’s been on the rise in popularity, being boasted as a way to replace your wallet on the go, it seems it won’t be able to pull its most impressive trick out of its hat.
In a report from The Wallstreet Journal this week, the tech giant has abandoned its efforts to offer built-in checking accounts as well as extensive budgeting and insight tools in partnership with Citigroup and Sanford Federal Credit Union. Visiting the Pay app will now reveal that the waitlists for both have sadly been removed from the ‘Insights’ tab.
Google initially told TechCrunch that it hoped a physical card for these features would become the foundation of the Pay app itself, rivalling Apple Pay and the Apple Card. Now, the company has gotten cold feet with both the physical and digital aspect of this incredible vision, which saddens me. There’s so much that banks just get wrong in terms of offering modernized budget and analysis tools to users, and I felt that if anyone was going to bring things up to speed, it would have been Google.
By offering Plex accounts directly in Pay, users would have had a much easier time with money management, even being able to set up specific personal savings goals, seemlessly transfer money in and out, and search for automatically categorized, geotagged, and timestamped transactions using powerful AI and machine learning algorithms. There would be no monthly fees or overdraft fees either, which would have been the icing on the cake for many.
Despite this odd setback, I hope to see “Goals” and other such features come to Pay in time, and I’m confident that the company isn’t going to just give up the ghost. However, the service works with over 300 banks, and Pay’s Project lead, Bill Ready, has revealed his concerns that “Plex could make other banks think Google was out to compete with them since it played a lead role in building the product”, so if anything, that path is now off limits for the forseeable future.
After The Wallstreet Journal reported Plex’s shutdown, both Citigroup and Google corroborated the report. A Google spokesperson told WSJ that efforts would be shifted toward “delivering digital establishment for banks and other financial service providers rather than us servicing as a provider of these services”. That’s code for “We love our partners too much to piss them off”. Google has always been big on retaining the trust and cooperation of the giants whos shoulders it stands on, so this isn’t really all that surprising that it’s trying to avoid stealing job roles.
The good news is that a Citigroup spokesperson followed up this statement saying that the company will “look for other ways to work with Google in the future.” What blows me away is that Google went through all of this trouble – branding, marketing, and even (and especially) racking up 400,000 interested parties – for Plex, only to realize after the fact that it would probably be a bad idea to pull the rug from under its cohorts. Anyone that had hopes of carrying a reincarnated physical Google Wallet card in their pockets sure is out of luck right now though. Here’s to hoping Google gives us more insights on their decision than just “we changed our mind” in an official blog post soon.