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The company first announced plans to integrate Google Wallet with Gmail at its developer conference in May and made the service available on a viral basis: The only way to try the combined service was to receive funds via Gmail from someone in the initial pool of testers, who had been granted early access.
Google now appears to be ready to generate interest in its Gmail payment capability by more conventional means, though it continues to support viral user acquisition. Those who elect to accept Google's invitation can allow others to join by sending them Gmail messages with cash attached.
Joining requires a bit more information than usual for consumer online services. You must confirm your identity by supplying your address, your date of birth and the last four digits of your social security number. The U.S. government, like other governments around the world, likes to have a way to trace the movement of currency if necessary, for the enforcement of tax and security laws.
[ Another way to pay for your coffee: Starbucks, Square Partner For Mobile Payments. ]
After you've submitted the required information, it should then take an hour or so before the "$" symbol becomes an option in the Gmail message ribbon.
The mechanics of sending money via Gmail are now well documented on a Google support page. It's simply a matter of hovering over the "+" icon at the bottom of a message composition window and then clicking on the "$" icon.
Assuming you've set up Google Wallet and have funds available, all you have to do is enter an amount, click "Attach" and then send your money-laden message. Sending money is free if you use existing Google Wallet funds or funds stored in a linked bank account. Alternately, you can use a credit or debit card as a source of funds, but that imposes a 2.9% transaction fee, $0.30 minimum.
Recipients can claim sent funds upon receipt once they have established a Google Wallet account. It would not be at all surprising if this requirement led to renewed interest in Google Wallet.
Google Wallet adoption has been slow in part because of the abundance of competitors: AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile USA are backing their own Isis payment service; Apple would rather promote its Passbook mobile payment management system; PayPal and Square have been making inroads in mobile payments; and a group of some two dozen retailers including Wal-Mart and Target want to control their own mobile payment solution.