Samsung Pay is a big perk of ownership for Samsung's phones. The MST-based system on most of the company's phones works with plenty of card readers that don't actually support contactless payments, and that's especially handy these days. There's not a whole lot of reason to give it up, but if you do want or need to switch to Google Pay and you're using a Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, you might run into some trouble.
While it's far from a universal issue, we've seen several reports stretching back over the last two months that Google Pay fails to work correctly on Samsung's biggest, latest flagship. The level of detail across customer reports varies, but for most of those affected, Google Pay will let you set up the app and add cards, and even set it as the default payment provider on the phone, but actually trying to use it in a store will result in failure or an error: a red exclamation point in the Google Pay app.
The usual troubleshooting, like checking that the app is exempt from power-saving optimizations and enabling NFC, doesn't seem to help those affected. Furthermore, the issue isn't limited to specific markets or versions of the phone. According to reports, both the Snapdragon and the Exynos S20 Ultra can run into this problem. We should note: None of our units at Android Police appear to exhibit this issue. Some of those affected that have tested other NFC applications like file transfers report no problem with those other use cases.
NFC antenna location for the Note20 Ultra on the center of the bottom back.
In isolation, this might not seem like a big problem since you'd assume customers can always just use Samsung Pay, which does reportedly function when enabled for those affected. However, there are some markets that Google Pay works in that Samsung Pay doesn't, leaving affected customers in those locations out of luck and without much in the way of alternatives.
For those affected, things like app data wipes and factory resets don't fix the issue, but some customers have fixed things by swapping their SIM to a second slot on dual-SIM models. Though they're rarely reliable sources of information, some carrier support reps claim the issue has to do with how Samsung's software handles certain SIMs or carriers. A few folks claim the issue has been fixed over the last month courtesy of updates, though other reports persist.
We've reached out to Samsung for more information about this issue, and we'll let you know if we hear anything back.