There are many mobile payment services in existence at the moment, and the differences between them can get confusing and murky. They can be an intimidating thing to look into, but mobile payments are growing every year, and they are clearly our future.
Android Pay, Samsung Pay, Apple Pay all have their advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a look at exactly how each of them works and who can use them.
What Is Android Pay?
Announced at Mobile World Congress (MWC) recently, Android Pay is essentially a framework for other apps to build on top of. It’s different than both Samsung Pay and Apple Pay in this sense. While those are both full-blown apps and services, Android Pay is much like a background layer for other companies to build payment systems on.
“We are doing it in a way so that anybody else can build a payments service on top of Android… In places like China and Africa, we hope that people will use Android Pay to build innovative services.”
Google Executive Sundar Pichai
This way, Google hopes that they can spur creative third parties to build high quality mobile payment apps. It’s a very Google-esque approach, since it’s basically what they do with Android — build the software and allow others to build the hardware — except in this case, they’re building the background layer and allowing others to build the apps.
The positive side for developers is that they don’t have to develop an entire infrastructure to support mobile payments; they can just use Android Pay. On the flip side, consumers win out because they are more likely to trust Google with their data than some random startup.
Additionally, Android Pay is said to support fingerprint scanners, Near Field Communication (What is NFC?), and purchases made both at physical stores and online.
When Will It Launch?
Google didn’t reveal a launch date during MWC, but it’s probably safe to bet that it’s still a few months out. Our best guess would be an official announcement at Google I/O in May.
What about Google Wallet?
You may have heard of Google Wallet before, and don’t worry, it continues to live. Think of Google Wallet as one of the apps that can take advantage of Android Pay. Ideally, we’ll be seeing more apps like Google Wallet cropping up after Android Pay officially launches.
Google Wallet has been alive since 2011, but has seen limited adoption. Some carriers blocked it, due to it competing with their unfortunately-named Isis Wallet service (which was later renamed to Softcard), and it wasn’t used much due to American retailers being slow to adopt NFC-compatible card readers.
Still, American retailers are being forced to upgrade to chip-and-pin systems by 2016, and since these newer systems often incorporate NFC readers, it’s likely that mobile payment systems like Google Wallet should get a nice boost from this upgrade.
What Devices Will Android Pay Be Compatible With?
Ideally, any Android device that supports NFC. Since Google Wallet has been around for a while, a large number of Android devices already have NFC. Though if you really want to be secure, you’ll need a newer phone with a fingerprint scanner.
What Is Samsung Pay?
Samsung Pay is a proprietary, Samsung-only payment service that is independent of Android Pay or Google Wallet. It’s differentiating feature is the fact that it can be used anywhere a card swiper is available — not just at NFC readers. That makes it suddenly available at a much larger number of stores than Apple Pay, which relies on NFC.
The way it does this is by a fancy technology built into the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, which were just recently announced, that allows the phones to emit an electromagnetic signal similar to the one the magnetic strip on your card produces. This is called Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST). Samsung got this cool technology from their recent acquisition of LoopPay, and it does a great job of getting their payment system to stand out.
Aside from that, it is a regular mobile payments app. It stores your credit card information, and when you want to make a payment, you press your finger against the fingerprint scanner and then press the phone against the NFC reader or magnetic strip reader.
What Devices Is It Compatible With?
Right now, only the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, which will both launch on April 10th. This is because of the integrated MST hardware, and they haven’t announced any plans to make an NFC-only version that’s compatible with older Galaxy devices.
What Is Apple Pay?
Apple Pay is the most used and tested on this list, since it is the only one actually currently available. People have been using the app since it launched with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus back in September, though our test found that it doesn’t dramatically simplify the payment process as many had hoped it would.
In fact, it suffered a major blow back in September when some retailers disabled NFC on their card readers as they prepared an alternative payment system called CurrentC. Due to this, it suffers from the same problem as Android Pay/Google Wallet: a limited number of NFC-compatible card readers.
Though, just like with Android Pay/Google Wallet, we could see more NFC readers becoming available in the US as we draw near to 2016 thanks to the federal regulation that all retailers must support chip-and-pin card readers by then, which are very likely to support NFC.
Apply Pay also benefits from the fingerprint sensor available on the newest iPhones, which is used to authenticate before each purchase — and it can even be used inside select apps.
Generally, Apple has been praised for the security measures taken, which means that nobody during the process sees your card number, and Apple isn’t tracking where you shop.
What Devices Is It Compatible With?
The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus currently, since they’re the first Apple devices to support NFC, and the Apple Watch will support it when it launches in the coming months.
Which Is Your Favorite?
Every mobile payment system here is a bit different, and what looks the best to you might not be the best to someone else. Android Pay may take off in the future, but for now, it’s mostly just a concept.
Otherwise, whichever device you’re using is most likely to determine which system you have access too, since only iPhone 6 users can use Apple Pay, Galaxy S6 users can use Samsung Pay, and some Android users can use Google Wallet.
But if your device wasn’t an issue, which mobile payment system would you choose? Who do you think is going to win out in the long term battle for consumers’ virtual wallets? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credits: Credit Card Via Shutterstock