There was some confusion at today's announcement whether or not Samsung's Galaxy S21 series of phones support MST for contactless payments. The technology allowed earlier Samsung devices to use wireless payments even at terminals that weren't configured with NFC, emulating a magnetic card stripe for the reader. Unfortunately for fans of the feature, Samsung confirms to us that the Galaxy S21 won't have MST in the US, and this loss of MST will apply to future phones as well.
We doubly confirmed this change with a Samsung representative, and though the feature is listed on some spec sheets at Samsung's site, it's also missing from others. We're told the sheets that have it correspond to non-US markets. Reaching out, we have confirmed with a company representative the feature will not be present on the US versions of the Galaxy S21 series. The following statement was also provided to explain the feature's removal.
Due to the rapid adoption of near field communication (NFC) technology by consumers and businesses, beginning with devices launched in 2021, Samsung Pay will focus its support on NFC transactions, across the Galaxy portfolio. While future devices will no longer include magnetic stripe technology (MST), customers with previous, compatible Galaxy devices will be able to continue using Samsung Pay, including MST.
According to Samsung, the change is due to the proliferation of NFC payments, which make MST obsolete. While it's true that many terminals now support NFC contactless payments, MST was still useful at smaller businesses and venues which failed to or couldn't afford to update their hardware, and it's a feature many (including us here at Android Police) will miss.
We should also point out, it's one less reason for anyone with a Galaxy S21 to use Samsung Pay, as other contactless payments services can also use NFC, and especially since Samsung Pay has ads and lost many of its rewards program benefits. That could be enough to tempt customers over to Google Pay, which has picked up some pretty great features over the last few months, like the ability to pull receipts from Google Photos and Gmail, Plaid bank integration, and an upcoming Google Plex integrated banking service. Samsung Pay's feature set does feel a bit Fisher-Price in comparison.