Android Pay heads to the UK

Google says it intends to launch Android Pay in the United Kingdom within 'the next few months,' according to the Android blog, but has not specified an exact date.

Dado Ruvic/Reuters/Illustration
A 3D printed Android logo is seen in front of a displayed cyber code (March 22, 2016).

Android Pay will be coming to the United Kingdom.

Google’s phone payment service is already incredibly popular in the United States, having signed up 1.5 million customers each month, on average, since launching last September. The company says it intends to launch Android Pay in the UK within “the next few months,” according to the Android blog, but has not specified an exact date. This will be Android Pay’s first foray into Europe.

Android Pay allows users to pay for purchases with the tap of phone once they upload details from ther major credit cards to the service's app. Android Pay will support Visa and Mastercard debit and credit cards for UK Android users through a partnership with several major UK banks, including Bank of Scotland, Halifax, and Lloyds Bank.

Users will also have the option to pay for their bus, train, and Tube passes with Android Pay through a partnership with Transport for London. Such features will not only likely boost credibility for consumers, but also make the service competitive against similar options like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.

"There’s no doubt that Google’s Android Pay will challenge Apple Pay and Samsung Pay,” Dr. Markos Zachariadis, Assistant Professor of Information Systems at Warwick Business School in Coventry, England, wrote to The Christian Science Monitor via e-mail. “Android Pay has the advantage of being available to many smartphone devices that use its OS software - like Samsung, LG, HTC, etc - while [Apple] Pay is restricted to the last couple of iPhone versions.”

Samsung Pay is similarly restricted; it only works on Samsung devices and a limited number of supported cards and banks.

Android Pay is Google’s latest effort to break into the mobile payments market. In 2011, the tech giant launched Google Wallet, which, like the current Android Pay, was intended to be a simple way for people to use their phones to make purchases. Today, Google Wallet functions much  like PayPal, allowing people to wire money between Android and iOS devices.

While major companies like Google, Apple, and Samsung are betting on mobile payments being the wave of the future, it remains to be seen whether consumers will adopt a similar outlook. When Apple Pay launched in the UK last year, Dr. Zachariadis explains, there was some initial excitement around the device but overall consumers did not see a significant reason to choose a mobile application over traditional payment methods when they decided to make a purchase.

The UK market has been quicker to adopt contactless cards than the US, in part thanks to earlier implementation there. UK residents used cards with a "chip and pin" system to make over $1 billion in purchases in 2015. But whether consumers will fully embrace using smartphones to make purchases is still an open question. 

“While mobile payment technologies are not yet as popular, the move of Apple, Google and Samsung will put pressure on retailers to adopt newer technologies and make the customer experience more seamless…Change is going to eventually come but maybe it will be somewhat slower than anticipated," Dr. Zachariadis says.

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