Google just released its latest in mobile payment tools: a new app called Hands Free that allows customers to pay for items at retail stores by simply informing the cashier: “I’ll pay with Google.” The cashier then confirms your identity via your Hands Free profile picture, and the transaction is completed by voice only, without the consumer having to go through the hassle of pulling out a wallet or digging through a purse for that ever-elusive credit card.
The new app is being piloted right now in a few locations in the San Francisco area, with the hopes that it will gain traction with consumers quickly, given the convenience the app offers.
This new offering by Google is only one of many payment innovations being developed across the industry in an effort to transform (and hopefully simplify) the way people pay for their stuff, thereby gaining a foothold in this quickly evolving market. In late February, several new payment concepts were introduced at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain. Payment-initiating device concepts include everything from the smartphone and smartwatch to the car (think automatic gas payments) and the “smart” refrigerator (which allows you to order and pay for groceries).
Here is some of the other mobile payment news so far in the first quarter of 2016.
- Apple debuted its Apple Pay mobile payments plan all the way back in 2014: a technology that enables anyone with an iPhone 6 device and a compatible debit or credit card account to make contactless payments, simply by hovering the phone over an NFC-compatible terminal. According to a recent Bloomberg Business report, among mobile payment providers, Apple Pay leads the pack (above Samsung Pay and Android Pay), with over 12 million monthly users.
- Android Pay may currently have fewer monthly users than Apple Pay (according to the report cited above), but it launched its platform almost a full year after Apple Pay did. With its 5 million monthly users, Android Pay is in all likelihood adding users more quickly than Apple Pay.
- Samsung Pay, since its US debut in September 2015, has signed up 5 million users and processed more than $500 million in transactions. The payment platform uses LoopPay technology, which mimics a magnetic stripe credit card when a phone is used with the store’s physical card reader, allowing retailers to accept these payments using existing point-of-sale equipment and giving Samsung Pay a huge advantage over Apple Pay.
- Visa recently launched a far-reaching developer platform that will give developers and other companies access to the company’s payment tools—essentially making its tech widely available to third parties. This initiative is aimed at making Visa more competitive with payments companies like PayPal and help bridge the gap for Visa between physical payments and digital payments.
- Square’s new chip card and NFC readers (hardware developed in partnership with Apple in 2015) made their debut in early February, 2016, becoming available for sale at all US Apple retail locations and on both Apple’s web store and Square’s website. This payments tool enables consumers to use Apple’s mobile payments technology (Apple Pay) in stores with a Square register point-of-sale system.
Samsung Gunning for Apple in Race to Dominate Mobile Payments, Bloomberg Business