As Android 4.4/KitKat updates begin rolling out to devices on all the major US carriers, one frequently asked question has to do with whether or not these devices will include Android's new "Tap and Pay" feature. This was one of the major additions in KitKat and allows almost any device with an NFC chip to be used for "tap and go" mobile payments, even if said chip doesn't have a built-in secure element.
That Google Wallet icon is looking awfully lonely in Android 4.4's Tap and Pay menu. Twin announcements from Visa and MasterCard could finally mean a few more options for NFC payments on Android, though. Both payment technology firms will be providing tools for card issuers to support Host Card Emulation (HCE) on user accounts.
This doesn't mean that all your Visa and MasterCard accounts are going to magically start working with HCE, but some of them might in the not too distant future.
The new update to Google Wallet makes a big change to the app's functionality – it now supports Tap & Pay on all KitKat devices with NFC. Previously, only the Wallet app from the Nexus 5 enabled this feature, but now it's rolling out to everyone.
Devices like the Moto X (only the updated versions) and Nexus 7 now support this functionality with the stock software, but even devices running AOSP-based Android 4.4 ROMs can make use of Tap & Pay.
Remember how the physical Google Wallet card showed up in some APK teardowns only to be removed without a word from Google? Well, it's back and you can place an order for it right now. Google says the card should be delivered to interested parties in 10-12 days.
The Wallet card will let you pay for items at any retailer, even those that don't have the little NFC kiosks Wallet has thus far relied upon.
Remember when everyone was pissed off that the Verizon version of the Galaxy Nexus couldn't use Google Wallet because of "security concerns"? ISIS Mobile Wallet, the alternative carrier-sponsored NFC payment system (and the reason that last sentence was equipped with sarcastic quote marks) is finally available, just two years after Google Wallet was coincidentally blocked by the carriers that are pushing ISIS. Nice work there, fellas.
ISIS has been in a beta testing mode in limited markets for just over a year - the necessary Android apps have been available on the Google Play Store since then.
A new update to Google+ is currently rolling out, and when it hits your device, not only will it bring along the usual bug fixes and performance increases, it will contain a number of new features. The Photos app now supports Android Beam, so two Android owners can share images with one another over NFC. There is also the new option to set images within Photos as a Daydream that plays whenever a device is docked.
Perhaps you noticed that I was a little light on post activity last week – that's because I was on a road trip to visit my family in Virginia. Just before I left, Arkon contacted me about a new product in their car mount lineup: the IntelliGrip NFC Car Mount ($35). Considering the timing, I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to give it a shot.
Basically, the NFC Mount is nothing more than Arkon's Slim-Grip Holder, but it has an embedded, re-writable NFC chip inside.
According to the aptly-named New Cell Phones Blog, photos of the "4.3-inch or 4.5-inch" Droid 5 have surfaced, which would confirm that Moto has another QWERTY slide-out keyboard in the works. The photos come to New Cell Phones courtesy of Weibo and show off a wireless charging coil. Other rumored features evidently include NFC and a resistance to both water and dust.
Nothing else is known about these photos, their veracity, or Motorola's plans for a Droid 5, but we'll certainly keep you updated when and if more details emerge.