Google has followed up its recent Softcard deal with the announcement of Android Pay during a keynote session at Mobile World Congress, but what does it mean for the payments industry?
"Android Pay is designed as an API framework that will enable third parties to leverage its capabilities to enhance their own m-commerce applications for Android devices," explains Eden Zoller, research analyst, Ovum.
"This take on m-payments is different to consumer-facing services such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and indeed the existing Google Wallet – Google is positioning Android Pay squarely as a platform."
However, Zoller says Android Pay does have some similarities with the consumer services, including the use of NFC for proximity payments, card tokenization, and biometrics for authentication.
"Google has suggested that Android Pay would be a particularly good m-payments platform for application developers in emerging markets such as China and Africa," she adds.
"This makes sense, given the growing base of Android smartphones in emerging markets."
According to Zoller, the upbeat projections for Android Pay are in sharp contrast to the current position of Google Wallet, which, after four years, is still largely confined to the US, where its installed base is building slowly.
Google says it will continue with Google Wallet, which Ovum presumes will in turn use Android Pay’s API framework.
However, it remains to be seen whether this and the anticipated benefits of Google’s recent acquisition of Softcard will be enough to give Google Wallet the boost it needs.
"The string of recent m-payment announcements from Google is no surprise," Zoller adds.
"The m-payments market is becoming highly competitive. Apple Pay has raised the stakes, forcing its rivals to respond, and the launch of Samsung Pay also poses a challenge."
Unfortunately, Zoller believes Google’s m-payments strategy is becoming "rather muddy" just when it needs to be crystal clear.
So much so that it needs to turn the situation around and achieve the clarity it needs at its forthcoming developer conference in May.
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