The idea of contactless payments has turned out to be an unusually divisive topic. Some people are certain that we're only a couple of years away from abandoning physical credit cards in favor of using smartphones at the checkout line, while others see it as an obnoxious novelty that slows down everything and should be ignored. Whatever the case, it's interesting to watch the progress of mobile payment methods as they grow and evolve in an effort to capture consumer interest. The latest update to Android Pay v1.3 doesn't appear to bring any immediately available new features, but a teardown reveals that we will soon have the option to use certain types of cards without unlocking our phones.
Use Loyalty And Gift Cards Without Unlocking
While the jury is still out over buying things with our phones, one thing everybody should agree on is that loyalty cards and gift cards are awful to carry around. Even before it was normal to have computers in the home, people have been trying to find ways to minimize the footprint of extraneous cards, either by printing or photocopying barcode sheets, or even chopping up the original plastic to build a frankencard from the remaining pieces. But if you've already started keeping some of those cards in Android Pay, Google is going to make it a little easier to use them at checkout.
Some new text was added to the latest Android Pay app that will be used with an option to allow certain types of cards and offers to be used without unlocking a phone. This includes loyalty programs, gift cards, and offers – basically everything but credit cards.
<string name="smarttap_lock_setting_description">Allow loyalty programs, gift cards, and offers to be applied while your phone is locked</string>
<string name="smarttap_lock_setting_label">Apply while phone is locked</string>
There's also vaguely suggestive phrasing in the initial launch text, pointing out that a phone can be used with terminals in a store, but some transactions will require the phone be unlocked. The inference is that there are transactions that won't require unlocking.
<string name="warm_welcome_tap_to_pay_headline">Then wake up your phone and hold it to the terminal</string>
<string name="warm_welcome_unlock_if_needed_headline">You may need to unlock for some transactions</string>
It's not hard to see the logic behind this feature. Some stores require loyalty cards at the beginning of checkout, then won't accept payment until the end, meaning customers might have to unlock twice to get through the whole process. Besides, there's not a lot of risk associated with a store loyalty card. If somebody gets their hands on your phone and uses that membership number, what's the worst that's going to happen? They'll get a store discount? Pfft.
But loyalty cards are just the beginning, the text also mentions gift cards and offers. On a basic level, this sounds like a way to pick up a free smoothie or burrito as part of a promotion; but things could get a lot more convenient with refillable gift cards. If your daily ritual calls for making a stop at Starbucks on the way to work or picking up a sandwich from Subway for lunch, just pre-load an account each week and the process of paying for these things becomes almost effortless. Without the need to unlock, Android Pay may actually become the fastest and most convenient method for buying certain things.
Of course, there are some cards that fall into these lower risk categories, but that's why this will be an optional feature. Additionally, none of this can work if the phone isn't awake with the screen on. And no matter what, credit cards will still be considered high risk and can't be used without unlocking.
The biggest roadblock for mobile payment systems like Android Pay and Apple Pay remains the shockingly slow rollout of properly equipped and upgraded payment terminals in stores. Nevertheless, progress is being made and businesses are starting to see more incentives to take full advantage of the platform. It's only a matter of time until a phone can be used for the majority of our in-store purchases, and it looks like steps are being taken to make it as convenient as possible.
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