Pay with your phone: Google unveils Android Pay in Britain

Google's Android Pay comes nine months after Apple launched its pay service in Britain. But it doesn't mean Google is late to the game, as 60 percent of smartphone users in Britain own an Android device. 

Jeff Chiu/AP/File
In this May 28, 2015, file photo, a Google employee gives a demonstration of Android Pay on a phone at Google I/O 2015 in San Francisco.

Move over Apple, Android Pay is coming to Britain.

Google's Android Pay contactless payment system officially launched Wednesday, making it the first time that the company has made Android Pay available outside its home market of the United States.

The service requires a smartphone running Android 4.4 KitKat or later model, which are equipped with Near-Field Communication (NFC) chips. Users will have to download the Android Pay app from the Google Play store and link a debit or credit card to the system. The app doesn't need to be open to be used for transactions that are under £30. Any transactions above that amount, however, will require approval though a security code, fingerprint, or lock pattern.

Britain is considered one of the biggest markets for contactless payment system. The systems, which have been in place since 2008, have boomed recently driven by the growing number of contactless cards and terminals. As The Guardian reports, 84 million contactless credit cards had been used as of February 2016, and more than £1.3 billion was spent using contactless payments in the same month.

"The arrival of Android Pay once again demonstrates how the UK is a global leader in uptake of digital technologies," Jimmy McLoughlin, the Deputy Head of Policy at The Institute of Directors told the Mirror. "We are already the contactless capital of the world, and Android pay gives customers another option for quick and convenient payment."

Google is now looking to compete with Apple Pay which has been available in Britain since last July. Since it launched, Apple Pay has been successful, drawing support from several British banks, restaurants, and retail outlets. And while Apple has drawn support from banks including Barclays, the latter has said that it won't support Android Pay, as it is launching its own app for android phones to take advantage of the contactless market. Barclays had declined to support Apple Pay when it launched last July, but later reversed its decision in April.

Still, Google's pay system has drawn considerable support from retailers including fast-food chain Pret A Manger and pharmacy chain Boots, as well as Transport for London, which means that android users will be able to pay for their bus, train, and Tube rides using the service. Other banks that will support Android Pay include First Direct, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, M&S Bank, MBNA, Bank of Scotland, and Nationwide Building Society.

Android Pay also has an advantage over Apple Pay, as the latter limits its service to iPhones that have the latest fingerprint technology including iPhone 6s, iPhone 6, and iPhone SE. A majority of Britain's smartphone users – 60 percent – own an Android device which gives Android Pay an advantage over Apple Pay.

"Android Pay's low barrier to entry – most smartphones are NFC-enabled these days – means it'll have a more wide-reaching impact on how Brits pay for goods than Apple Pay has had alone,"  Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch told Cnet.

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