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Mobile payments in the real world: Android Pay

By Adam Doud October 1, 2015, 10:00 am

Buying stuff with your phone. Just think about that for a moment. Buying products with your phone. It’s such an awesome and potentially scary concept it’s worth a look at the mechanics of it and how it relates to every day life. We’ve already talked about how it makes electronic transactions safer.  But it’s also a little bit fun. Oko, you got me. It’s so much fun, now that I’ve done it, I won’t live without it.


Getting it rolling

Start off by adding your cards to Android Pay. This is not much different from adding cards to Google Wallet. The process is very simple. Basically, you take a photo of your credit card, fill in a couple of blanks (including the security code on the back of the card, address, etc.) and you’re ready to roll. Android Pay can store your credit cards and your loyalty cards. Of course, the only two loyalty cards I own are for drugs and burritos. Go figure.


One thing worth mentioning is that, for my new bank, I had to call separately to activate my card for Android Pay. I’m not really sure why I had to do this, but I had to do it. It wasn’t hard, but it was an extra step that seemed a bit unnecessary. Ah well, baby steps, after all.

It should also be mentioned that setting up Android Pay does require you to enable your lock screen on your phone, for fairly obvious reasons. This is becoming basically your credit card, so personally, I’m on board with this requirement. I always use a lock screen and set up my smartwatch as a trusted device where possible, so for me this isn’t a deal breaker. For some of you, maybe it is.


How it all comes together

Android Pay, for those not familiar, works with NFC – near field communication. Your encrypted information is stored securely in the cloud, called Host Card Emulation. Android Pay, like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay uses tokenization to transmit payment data, ensuring that your credit card details never leave that secure cloud. It’s a safer way to pay.

Of course, in the real world, this means you phone needs to have NFC coils and, more importantly, the payment terminal needs to support NFC as well. If that were the end of the story, life would be rosy. However, some NFC terminals won’t accept electronic payments, like CVS for example.  Anecdotally, I’ve also never gotten Google Wallet (though I have not tried since Android Pay came around) to work at Home Depot which has NFC terminals, but for some reason the employees there don’t understand, don’t work. This is an evolving situation of course. Apple Pay and Android Pay are both working toward gaining further acceptance in retailers across the country.

image courtesy of computerworld.com
Yes, this is Apple Pay, but the principle behind how it works is the same

Mickey comes to town

This is particularly evident in one chain of stores many of you have frequented – McDonalds. McDonalds recently began accepting Apple Pay and Android Pay payments. While I don’t partake of good ol’ Mickey D’s, my children do – frequently – which gives me the opportunity to examine a peculiar aspect of mobile payments. When you drive up to the drive-thru window of a McDonalds restaurant, and request to pay with Android Pay, the cashier needs to take a credit card terminal, and hold it out of the window and allow you to tap your phone to it.

I’m not even kidding.

The amusing part of this is that, while McDonalds should be applauded for accepting this method of payment, its execution is a little…off. Nevertheless, I love the fact that I can buy this food with my phone.


Using Android Pay

Speaking of which, making a payment with Android Pay is a simple as holding your phone near the NFC terminal. Beep, and you’re done. Literally. Back in the days of Google Wallet, there was a little Wallet dance that had to be done – wake your phone, tap it on the terminal, enter your pin, tap it again, yadda yadda. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all that bad. But with Android Pay, things got a lot simpler, and when it comes to adoption of technology, the simpler, the better.

Once your transaction is complete, you will receive a notification indicating the purchase amount, location, etc. You can access a history of those transactions within the Android Pay app. Voila! You’ve just bought a salt-saturated hamburger with your phone. Welcome to the future.

Android Pay does have some limitations. App compatibility is still coming, according to Android Pay’s website. But more than that, there is one major thing that is limiting Android Pay adoption. We’ll take a look at that very thing, and what an OEM is doing to try and solve it, in the next piece when we look at Samsung Pay.

Update: A previous version of this article left out the lock screen requirement of Android Pay. Thanks to @darkmastergrey


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