Android Pay is now available in the UK, allowing you to make payments using your mobile phone rather than a bank card. Here's what you need to know about Android Pay in the UK, which banks and shops support Android Pay, and what is Android Pay Day. See also: LG Pay.
Back at its I/O conference in June 2015, Google announced a series of exciting new innovations, including the then latest version of its mobile operating system (Android Marshmallow), Google Photos, and Android Pay. The service replaced Google Wallet and allows Android users to pay for a variety of products and services using just their NFC-equipped phones.
It’s obviously the search giant’s version of the already announced Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, the former of which has been available in the UK in July 2015. See also: Samsung Galaxy S7 review
Android Pay UK release date: When will the UK get Android Pay?
Google announced on 10 September 2015 that Android Pay would begin rolling out in the US the same day, but in its blog post there was no mention of the service being available anywhere other than the US.
Then, in early 2016, rumours suggested that an Android Pay UK release date was very close as The Telegraph reported that the service would reach British shores in March 2016. "Google will announce that Android Pay will be available in Britain from the end of next month, industry sources said," claimed the report in February.
Then, after a no-show in March, the Telegraph posted another note on Android Pay. It appears coffee shop, Pret, put out signs on its card payment machines with the message "We now accept Android Pay..." in one of its London stores.
Then, the following day, Android Pay was made available for all users. You can download and use it on any Android phone with version 4.4 or higher and an NFC chip. Follow our guide on setting up and using Android Pay.
"Android smartphones will become even more useful with the launch of Android Pay. We’re bringing together payment networks, banks and retailers to help you pay simply and securely," said Google.
Mobile payments are seen as a potentially huge market by the main technology firms, and with Apple Pay already rolled out in the UK the battle is on between Google and Samsung for a rival.
Read next: Samsung Pay release date in the UK
Android Pay Day: What is Android Pay Day?
Now that Android Pay is finally available for Android users in the UK, Google needs to make sure people start using it. How? By launching Android Pay Day, which will offer Android Pay users discounts once a month on the Tuesday before pay day (usually at the end of the month). The promotion kicked off at the end of June 2016, offering users two-for-one on Frappucinos in Starbucks along with a £5 voucher that can be redeemed within the Deliveroo app (provided you select Android Pay as your payment method, of course!).
Android Pay UK supported banks and cards
Google has now provided details on which cards and banks in the UK will support Android Pay.
In the same blog post as mentioned above, Google said: "Android Pay will support MasterCard and Visa credit and debit cards from many of the UK’s major financial institutions - including Bank of Scotland, First Direct, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, M&S Bank, MBNA and Nationwide Building Society - with new banks being added all the time."
Those who have followed the release of Apple Pay will know that Barclays was one of the last banks to join, so it comes as little surprise to learn it will be snubbing Android Pay. The bank is going to focus on its own mobile payments service, and a new version of its mobile app will roll out with 'Contactless Mobile' in June.
Customers will be notified when the service is available, and will then be able to make mobile payments of up to £30 by tapping their phone on the scanner at supported outlets. Contactless Mobile will also allow payments up to £100, but customers will need to tap their phone on the terminal, enter a PIN, then tap their phone again.
In September 2016 Google announced that four new banks in the UK now support Android Pay, with a fifth - TSB - coming soon. These four are Natwest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander and Ulster Bank.
Android Pay UK shops: Where can I use Android Pay in the UK?
In the UK you'll be able to use Android Pay anywhere contactless payments are accepted, including Boots, Costa, KFC, Starbucks Waitrose and other retailers.
"Android Pay will help you speed through checkout within your favorite apps including JD Sports, Deliveroo, YPlan, and more. Say goodbye to entering your payment or address details every time you want to shop," added Google.
You can also use Android Pay to travel around London on the Tube, buses and trains with Transport for London (TfL).
Google also has an Android Pay API which developers can use to enable payments in stores and apps so you can look out for the option.
Android Pay requirements: Does my phone support Android Pay?
If you're wondering whether you can use Android Pay or not, there's a couple of things you need to check.
Firstly, you'll need a smartphone running Android 4.4 or above and you'll also need an NFC chip (near field communications). This covers a large amount of Android phones but even recent devices like the OnePlus 2 don't have an NFC chip.
It's also worth pointing out that you don't need a fingerprint scanner on your phone in order to use Android Pay. While it's a more secure method of authorisation, you can still use Android Pay without one.
Why should we be excited about Android Pay?
While it isn’t exactly a huge hardship to have to produce our bank cards when we want to pay for a product, the convenience of using a smartphone is something that will quickly become apparent. At the Google I/O presentation the service was shown to be a simple case of placing your phone on a till point and unlocking it to pay.
No numbers to enter, no apps to launch, just unlocking the handset. Adding new bank cards was also a case of tapping one option, although of course the issuing bank will need to support the service for it to be this simple in real life. Due to the way the Android Pay service is built - allowing for an API that can be coded into supported apps - the service can also access loyalty card information and include it in each transaction, thus further reducing the need to carry around a purse or wallet.
There was even an experimental feature called Hands Free which allowed you to pay without taking your phone out of your pocket. It looked amazing, but is only in the early stages at the moment, with trials being conducted in selected areas of San Francisco.
For Android fans in the UK the sad reality is that we will most likely have to look on enviously as our American cousins purchase things on their phones with gay abandon. Hopefully though, this time the magic will make its way across the ocean, and maybe sooner than you think.