Six months after Google first disclosed its plans for Android Pay, the company on Thursday finally began rolling out the mobile payment application to Android smartphone users in the U.S.
Existing users of Google Wallet can get Android Pay as an update to their Wallet app. New users will be able to download Android Pay from the Google Play app store in the next few days, Pali Bhat, director of product management at Android Pay said in a blog post.
Android Pay will come pre-installed on all new Android smartphones from T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon that support Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, Bhat said. Android Pay gives users a way to make electronic payments for their purchases using their smartphones.
To use it, Android smartphone owners simply download and install the app, enter a valid credit or debit card account to it and they are ready to make purchases. Users who already have a card in Google Wallet or any other app can upload that information to Android Pay.
To make a payment, the user has to unlock the phone, start the application and hold the back of the phone close to a contactless payment terminal that supports Android.
All credit and debit card data used for payments through Android Pay is tokenized. “This means your real credit or debit card number isn’t sent with your payment. Instead, we’ll use a virtual account number that provides an extra layer of security,” Bhat explained. Once a transaction is completed, the app sends a payment confirmation showing where the transaction was made to help users quickly spot suspicious activity, Bhat added.
Android Pay works with MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover. Cards issued by a total of nine banks including Wells Fargo, US Bank, Bank of America and USAA currently can be uploaded to Android Pay. CapitalOne and Citibank will be added to the list soon with more banks to be announced in the coming months, Bhat said.
Android Pay is currently accepted at over one million locations across the U.S., according to Google. Android smartphone owners can use the app to pay for purchases at 20 major retailers including, BJs Wholesale Club, Walgreens, Toys R Us, Petco, Sports Authority and Aeropostale.
Later this year, Google will integrate Android Pay into several mobile applications as well so smartphone users will be able make in-app purchases via Android Pay.
For Google, Android Pay marks its second attempt at making real inroads in the mobile payments space. The company was first to the market when it released Google Wallet in 2011, but the technology has struggled to gain wide consumer acceptance.
According to a December 2014 report from investment research firm ITG, Google held a 4 percent share in the mobile payment market as of last November compared to the 1.7 percent market share acquired by Apple in just a month of its launch of Apple Pay.
The stakes are enormously high for both companies in the mobile payment space. Analyst firm Forrester Research estimates that the U.S. mobile payments market will reach a staggering $142 billion by 2019 compared to the current $52 billion, In-person mobile payments, of the kind enabled by Android Pay will grow the fastest between now and then, according to Forrester.