Google's Android Pay mobile payments service arrives in US
For Google, the second crack at mobile payments could be the charm.
The search giant’s latest attempt at helping people pay for items using their smartphone will be available Thursday, the company said in a statement. Google struck agreements with more than 1 million retail locations in the US, including Macy’s, Whole Foods and Walgreens.
Google said the service, which was first announced in May, will also store gift cards and loyalty cards on phones powered by its Android software. It will support credit and debit cards from the four major payment networks: American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa. Google said later this year the service will work with mobile apps as well.
This isn’t Google’s first time at the mobile payments rodeo. Competition in the space has been heating up since Apple announced its own service, Apple Pay, last year, offering it to anyone using a year-old iPhone or newer or the Apple Watch. About 72 hours after its October debut, over 1 million credit cards had been activated on Apple Pay, more than any similar service combined, the company said.
Apple wasn’t the first, though. Four years ago, Google made its first foray into credit cards and payments using a service called Google Wallet. But it was a struggle from the get-go; few retailers supported it, a couple of wireless phone service providers disabled it, and it didn’t always work. Google on Thursday also announced a new version of Wallet, which will focus only on sending and receiving money through Android phones.
Apple Pay’s success has now attracted many other tech companies to offer their own flavor of the technology. Samsung in March announced its own service, called Samsung Pay, for its Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge smartphones. Also, Google in February acquired some of the technology behind Softcard, a payments system backed by several US telecommunications firms. PayPal, too, is working to improve its mobile services.
If Android Pay succeeds, it could help mobile payments take off and keep Google relevant in that burgeoning market. Smartphone payments at retailers are expected to surge to $118 billion by 2018, according to eMarketer. That’s up more than 3,000 percent from the $3.5 billion tallied last year.
Like other payment services, Google said isn’t transmitting consumers’ credit or debit card number when making transactions. Instead, it sends a computer-generated account number as a stand in. The service will be available on phones with specialized payments chips and powered by software made in the last two years.
Correction, 7:36 p.m. PT:Because of a typographical error, this story originally said Android Pay will not be available on phones with specialized chips. It will be available on those phones.