Alphabet’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) answer to Apple Pay; Android Pay, is now available in Asia for the first time in Singapore. Several major US retailers; including Walgreens, have begun accepting the Google digital wallet as well.
The NFC-enabled digital wallet launched in the island nation in late June, Mashable reported. According to news reports, Android Pay will support MasterCard and Visa debit and credit cards from three Singapore banks; DBS/POB, OCB Bank, Standard Chartered and UOB. That means it will be accepted at 30,000 terminals in the country.
There’s no word on what US credit cards and banks will work with Android Pay in Singapore. Singapore is the second location outside the United States, where Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL) has rolled out the solution. It premiered in the United Kingdom in May.
Samsung Pay and Apple Pay are also available in Singapore. Another digital solution the Dash from the phone company SingTel is also available in the country.
Singapore is a good beachhead in Asia for Android Pay because it is a majority Chinese country that speaks English. The rollout there is a great beta test before moving onto larger markets in the region like Malaysia and Australia.
The biggest question here is China where Android is available but Google Play Services are not. The reason for that is Alphabet’s rocky relationship with China’s Communist Party, which distrusts the search engine giant’s management. There are rumors that Beijing might allow Google Play in the People’s Republic this year if it did Android Pay would presumably available there. Android Authority reported that Google Play is scheduled to roll out in China this year.
There’s no word on when Android Pay will be rolled out in other countries but I imagine that more are coming. Android Pay is a major threat to Apple Play because Android is the world’s most popular phone operating system.
Android Play’s Secret Weapon Cash
Android Pay is spreading to more retailers and banks in the United States. Its most popular feature will be a rather old fashioned one – the ability to get cash. According to Mashable, some customers will be able to get cash from Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) ATMs using Android Pay.
The feature is only available at ATMs in the San Francisco Bay area but it should be rolled out nationwide at some point. The ability to get cash is vital, because 85% of transactions worldwide and 40% in the USA still involve hard currency.
It is also easy to see why BOA is so anxious to roll out the feature its consumer banking business is in decline. Bank of America’s revenues fell by $1.4 billion during the first quarter of 2016. Alphabet wants access to BOA’s ATM network which encompasses many popular retailers including Seven-11 convenience stores. A successful roll out at Bank of America will force the other monster banks such as JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) to start accepting Android Pay at their ATMs.
Android Pay at Walgreens, Whole Foods and Sprouts
Several major American retailers have joined the list of brands accepting Android Pay. Major stores where you can now use the app include:
- Walgreens (NASDAQ: WBA)
- Basha’s grocery stores in Arizona
- Whole Foods Market
- Sprouts Farmers Market
- Winn Dixie
- Verizon Stores
- VC’s Fresh Market
- Office Depot
- The Fresh Market
- Pep Boys
- Duane Reade Drug Stores
- Jewel-Osco Drug Stores
- Panera Bread
- Texaco gas stations
- BJ’s Wholesale Club
- American Outfitters
- Chevron Gas Stations
Despite this most of the biggest names in American retail including Walmart (NYSE: WMT), Costco Wholesale, the Kroger’s supermarkets, Safeway, CVS Health pharmacies, Target, Lowe’s and Home Depot are conspicuously absent from Android Pay’s list of brands. Like Apple Pay, it is a tough sell to the big retail.
The major reason for this might be security; retail giants seem to prefer payment apps based on QR (quick read) code technology, which is theoretically more secure. Walmart’s Walmart Pay uses that technology; as did the supposedly defunct Current C that several retailers; including Walmart, experimented with in Cincinnati for several months. One reason why big retail likes QR is that unlike NFC wireless, it might be possible to combine it with blockchain technology for even greater security at some point.
Like Apple, Alphabet might be forced to switch to QR; which uses the phone’s camera to snap a shot of a code instead of a wireless signal, at some point. Another possibility is that Apple Pay and Android Pay will be integrated with Walmart Pay at some point.
This of course forms an opening for another QR based solution Chase Pay which is supposed to be coming later this year. Even though it is now widely available, Android Pay like Apple Pay is still a niche product. We are still waiting for a payment app that will be widely accepted by both consumers and retailers.