Google has begun its US launch of Android Pay, its own mPayment platform. In an announcement on the Android blog, the company explained that the service will be “rolling out over the next few days, and this is just the beginning.”
The service is currently compatible with any NFC-enabled Android mobile device running KitKat 4.4+, and it can be used with any mobile carrier and supports Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover payment cards. Android Pay launches with Bank of America (which is also helping rival Samsung with its own mPayment beta testing), Navy Federal Credit Union, Regions Bank, PNC, USAA, and US Bank on board, with Wells Fargo, Citi, and Capital One coming soon, and others to follow.
There are a couple of potential limitations or drawbacks to the service. One is that it requires merchants to support NFC technology at their POS terminals, and this isn’t as widespread in the US as it is in other parts of the world. Android Pay’s main competitor, Apple Pay, also suffers from this limitation, but when Samsung Pay arrives it’s going to disrupt that model with innovative technology that essentially lets user’s smartphone trick a swipe-based card reader into reading it as a compatible card.
The other, potentially more serious drawback is that Android Pay doesn’t use biometric authentication as a standard security measure, unlike Apple Pay. While there are signs that fingerprint scanning-based authentication is on the way via the forthcoming Android Marshmallow OS, at the moment Google is content to rely on tokenization of payment information as its primary security measure. With fingerprint sensors now almost standard on all mid- and high-end smartphones, and biometric security standard on Apple Pay and other forthcoming mPayment services, that could be perceived as a flaw in the Android Pay system; on the other hand, it’s possible that many consumers simply won’t worry about it, at least until there is a serious crisis with respect to hacking and data breaches.