Android Pay swells ranks of e-wallet payment services

S'pore launch follows that in US and Britain; Google cites well-developed system here

Android Pay users can tap their phones to pay for goods and services at outlets like McDonald’s. Unlike rival services Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, the Google service does not require users to own the latest handsets. ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

Even more smartphone users, not just those using Apple and Samsung devices, can now tap their phones at physical retail stores to pay for goods and services.

This comes with today's launch of Android Pay, Google's mobile payment and digital wallet service.

Android Pay users can save into their phones Visa and MasterCard credit or debit cards issued by five major banks here: POSB, DBS Bank, OCBC Bank, United Overseas Bank and Standard Chartered Bank.

Cards issued by these banks - which account for more than 80 per cent of all cards here - have also been accepted by rival service Apple Pay since last month.

Android Pay's arrival in Singapore comes after it was launched in the United States in September last year and in Britain last month.

Google Singapore's country director Joanna Flint said Singapore is a key market.

"It is one of the most advanced mobile nations in the world with the highest level of smartphone penetration in Asia," said Ms Flint, noting that Singaporeans love to shop.

She also cited a well-developed payment eco-system comprising banks, card issuers, payment networks and merchants as another consideration for launching here.

Like rival services Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, Android Pay uses the wireless Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to transmit data between the mobile device and a contactless payment reader.

Contactless NFC payment is accepted at 30,000 retail points here, including at FairPrice and Cold Storage supermarkets, as well as Guardian, Starbucks and Uniqlo outlets.

But unlike Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, Android Pay does not require users to own the latest handsets. Even older models like the two- year-old Samsung Galaxy S4 and LG G3 smartphones are compatible.

Market research firm Forrester Asia-Pacific mobile payments researcher Ng Zhi Ying said this opens up the technology to more users as "you don't need to buy a new phone to use the payment service; any NFC Android phone will do".

Marketing manager Dion Liew, 35, said she will use Android Pay as her Samsung Galaxy S6 is not among the supported handsets for Samsung Pay. "I want to try it, to see if Android Pay can replace my physical credit cards," she said.

Users of the latest Samsung phones such as the Galaxy S7, for instance, can choose between Samsung Pay or Android Pay, but not both.

Samsung Pay's advantage is that it is more widely accepted, even at retail outlets that have yet to install a contactless reader. This is because Samsung Pay uses a proprietary Magnetic Secure Transmission technology that works with traditional magnetic-stripe card terminals, which are more commonplace than NFC readers.

Payment at these terminals is not subject to a cap on transaction value, unlike the $100 cap at NFC payment terminals. Users place their fingers on the phone's fingerprint sensor to authenticate a transaction.

"The launch of Android Pay will bring the growth of contactless payments in Singapore to the next level," said Ms Ooi Huey Teng, Visa country manager for Singapore and Brunei.

Mr Anthony Seow, head of cards and unsecured loans at DBS Consumer Banking Group, said: "Our early data shows that card users are more inclined to use contactless payments with mobile devices."

So far, more than 47,000 credit and debit cards issued by DBS have been registered for Apple Pay. These users have increased their contactless transactions by at least 50 per cent since, he noted.

More than 40,000 cards issued by OCBC cards have also been registered for Apple Pay. Official figures are not available for Samsung Pay in Singapore.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2016, with the headline Android Pay swells ranks of e-wallet payment services. Subscribe