By the end of the month, Google Wallet will be available on twice as many phones as before — the portfolio is growing from two to four.
Baby steps, right?
On Friday, LG announced that its Optimus Elite handset will hit Virgin Mobile USA on May 15, and feature compatibility with Wallet, Google’s mobile payments platform. Wallet ties into the Near Field Communication (NFC) chips found in a growing number of phones. To make a small retail purchase like a cup of coffee or bagel, users can wave their Wallet-enabled phone over a check-out scanner, rather than paying with a credit card or cash.
When it goes on sale, the Optimus Elite will be just the third Google Wallet-friendly handset released thus far, following 2010′s Samsung Nexus S and the Galaxy Nexus, which launched last year and arrived on Sprint last month.
Sprint, which owns Virgin Mobile USA, is the only major U.S. carrier to support Google Wallet thus far. ATT, T-Mobile and Verizon don’t offer Wallet-compatible phones as of yet. Instead, the three are aligned in an NFC payments joint venture of their own, Isis, that has yet to launch.
On May 18, Sprint will begin selling the HTC Evo 4G LTE with Google Wallet installed on each handset, marking it the fourth Google Wallet device to be released.
Virgin will sell the Optimus Elite for $150, free of contract but with prepaid plans starting at $35 a month. Sprint also offers the Optimus Elite, but it’s variation of the phone isn’t compatible with Google Wallet. The Sprint version sells for $30 on a two-year contract and a mail-in rebate.
Aside from price and color — Sprint’s Optimus Elite has a white chassis, while Virgin’s is black and silver — the phone is the same no matter which division of Sprint you’re forking money over to.
The Optimus Elite’s specs place it in the lower end of today’s smartphones with a 3.5-inch screen, 5MP camera, an 800MHz single-core CPU and Google’s Android Gingerbread operating system.
Meanwhile, the Evo 4G LTE is Sprint’s new flagship Android phone, and is packed accordingly with top-end features — a 1.5GHz dual-core CPU, 8MP camera, a 4.5-inch, 720p, SuperLCD display and even an anodized aluminum kickstand. The Evo 4G LTE sells for $200 on a 2-year contract.