Android Pay will use near-field communication (NFC) initially, but will be able to take advantage of biometric devices such as fingerprint scanners at a later date. Credit card data will be stored locally so that payments can be conducted without a data connection on the smartphone.
“We are doing it in a way so that anybody else can build a payments service on top of Android,” said Google’s senior vice-president of product, Sundar Pichai, at a press event at Mobile World Congress. “In places like China and Africa, we hope that people will use Android Pay to build innovative services.”
The service is being pitched to developers to build directly into their apps. Users will be able to pay for goods in bricks-and-mortar stores, but Android Pay will not exist as a standalone app, like Apple Pay on an iPhone. Instead, it will be used by third-party apps to create payment products such as store- or payment provider-specific apps, acting as a payment source as well as a credit card replacement.
Google Wallet will continue to exist, but will integrate Android Pay as a payment source. Pichai also said that Google will look to work alongside Samsung Pay, but that the Korean company is working to different timescales. No timeframe for its launch was given, but more is expected from Google’s developer conference in June.
Despite being available on Android smartphones since 2011, Google Wallet has failed to spread beyond limited use in the US. Mobile phone operators have also tried to leverage their billing systems as a way to pay for goods and services using a smartphone.
It was Apple’s entry into the payments space last year that ignited a new race from technology companies to capture a slice of the potentially lucrative market.