With Android Pay on the horizon, here's what you need to know

By Michael Lloyd

Google announced at end of March 2016 that its mobile wallet, Android Pay, will finally be released in the UK in summer 2016. The service is Google's version of Apple Pay, which launched in Britain in July 2015, and Samsung Pay, which is expected to be available here by the end of 2016. It allows users to store debit and credit card information on an Android device, and pay for goods and services with a smartphone or tablet at contactless payment terminals.

Unlike its two competitors, however, Google's mobile payment solution won't be tied to one hardware manufacturer's devices, making its potential user base considerably larger than both its main rivals'. Here's what non-Apple-or-Samsung users can expect from the new mobile payment service available to them.android-pay

Hardware and software
To use Android Pay, you'll need a device running Android KitKat 4.4 or higher. As of April 2016, more than 70% of Android devices in use globally met this requirement, according to the Google Play Developer Console. This includes Samsung devices that are also compatible with Samsung Pay.

In short, if you got your device after October 2013, you should be good to go. You'll also need a smartphone or tablet equipped with an NFC receiver to make purchases at contactless payment terminals.

"It's safe to assume that a vast majority of smartphones will be compatible with this new payment system," Liviu Arsene, senior e-threat analyst at anti-virus software firm Bitdefender, said in an emailed response to questions. "However, rooted devices or custom Android builds are unlikely to be compatible with Android Pay, as these could jeopardise the security of Android Pay transactions."

If you've recently upgraded to a new device running the most recent build of Android, you may find that the Android Pay app has been preinstalled on your smartphone or tablet. If this isn't the case, simply head over to the Google Play store and download it for free after it's launched in the UK.

How it works
The first time you launch Android Pay, you'll be prompted to enter details of the cards you want to use with the service. Alternatively, you can hit the "plus" icon and select the option to "add a credit or debit card" to load cards associated with other Google products you use.

When it comes to making purchases in-store, unlock your device, hold it close to a contactless payment terminal, and use either the fingerprint scanner or your passcode to authenticate your payment. You don't have to open the Android Pay app. If prompted, choose "credit," no matter what type of card you're trying to use.

To make in-app purchases, simply tap the Android pay button, and follow the instructions to check out. You may be prompted to add shipping details in some apps.

Bank and retailer support
When announcing the imminent roll-out of Android Pay, Google confirmed that payment processors Visa and MasterCard were already signed up, along with a number of banks including the Bank of Scotland, First Direct, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, M&S Bank, MBNA and Nationwide Building Society. The search giant also stressed that other financial institutions are being added in the lead-up to the service's launch.

Check with your card issuers to find out if they will support Android Pay once the service goes live. If the adoption of Apple Pay by UK banks is anything to go by, however, it's likely that many major banks will get on board.

Google claims you'll be able to use the Android Pay anywhere that contactless payments are accepted, including high street retailers and on public transport across London.

"The system will be compatible with a lot of already-available POS [point of sale] terminals in stores," Arsene said. "NFC payment technology has been around for a while now, and even bank-issued credit and debit cards support it. Simply using a mobile phone instead of an actual piece of plastic is believed to make the purchasing experience simpler and more appealing, especially for millennials."

Despite assurances about the security of contactless payments, many people remain suspicious of paying for goods and services using the technology. An April 2016 study from research firm Future Thinking found that almost a third of shoppers don't use contactless technology because they don't trust it.

However, mobile payment services such as Android Pay never share your card details with vendors, which adds an extra layer of security that you don't get with traditional cards.

"Regarding the tech behind Android Pay, no electronic payment is or was ever bulletproof," said Arsene. "However, safeguards have been implemented so that actual credit card information is never sent during transactions. To this end, customers will only use a virtual account number -- attached to your credit card -- and a one-time confirmation code, making the entire process pretty secure, as they'll never broadcast their actual credit card information.

However, Arsene conceded that "while right now there are no known vulnerabilities in these technologies," with increased adoption comes increased vulnerabilities. "Where there's money, cybercrime will inevitably be drawn to it."

See related: Prepare now for Samsung Pay, Calling all payment tech junkies: Emerging innovations gather steam, Preparing for Apple Pay

Updated: 28 April 2016