Google Wallet ends support for physical secure elements

Google wallet multi-coloured logo

From 14 April 2014 it will only be possible to use Google Wallet to make an NFC payment using a device that supports host card emulation (HCE). “Devices with Android versions older than Android 4.4 (Kitkat) will no longer be supported for tap and pay,” Google says.

Tap and pay “is available in the US, and requires an NFC-enabled Android device running 4.4 (Kitkat) or higher on any carrier network,” Google Wallet support explains However, it adds, “not all devices running Kitkat will support tap and pay” — NFC payments will not be possible on the Samsung Galaxy Note III, HTC Evo 4G LTE or the 2012 version of the Nexus 7.

In a customer email forwarded to Droid Life Google explains:

We wanted to let you know about an update to Google Wallet that might change the way you use the app. Right now it looks like you’re using tap and pay with a device running an Android version older than 4.4 Kitkat. On the newest version of Android, tap and pay works with different technology for an improved experience. As a result, starting on A​p​r​i​l 1​4, 2​0​1​4, tap and pay will no longer work for devices with older Android versions.

Google first introduced support for NFC payments with Android 2.3 Gingerbread and the Nexus S in December 2010 and followed up with the launch of Google Wallet in May 2011. The search giant met early resistance from carriers who blocked support for Google Wallet on their phones, however, and has since been looking for a way to get around those blocks. HCE, introduced with Android 4.4 in October 2013, may do just that.

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10 comments on this article

  1. So now that Apple Pay uses a secure element will people accept it even though they rejected it when Google did it?

      1. People meant carriers in my comment. Also since then, all stories point to yes. Carriers accepted it, Wall Street is calling it the answer to Target and Home Depot type of breaches…it is almost as if this payment technology never existed before and now everyone is talking about it and it’s benefits, while marginalizing it’s downsides. The complete opposite happened when Google Wallet launched with the secure element…

        1. The secure element is generally seen as a good thing, and has always made sense. It’s who controls it (and therefore extracts rent) that causes the fights.

          Apple looks to control theirs, and the software side of the device too, which means they get to call the shots.

          Google doesn’t have that luxury; it controls the OS but not the hardware. The carriers think they should control the secure element by putting it on the SIM. And phone makers think they should control it because they’ve embedded them in their devices. All these parties have some degree of leverage over the others, too, which makes for the mess we’ve seen so far.

          HCE is good news for Android because it can swerve round the whole argument by cutting the secure element out of the equation. So, at the moment, HCE is the way forward for Android — while it’s a case of Apple’s way or the highway on iOS.

          This story still has miles and miles to run 🙂

          1. I wish I understood the detailed mechanics of Google’s HCE, because I had someone mention that they thought it was less secure than apple pay and I didn’t know enough to weigh in.

          2. regardless of how secure HCE is, there is at least two glaring problems with google wallet. The fingerprint sensors on Android powered phones simply either don’t exist or are not yet reliable enough as the Apple sensor. Samsung’s sensor simply does not work very well. Can you imagine the amount of abuse and frustration Android users are going to get as they continually try to wave their phone near the NFC device at the retail store and the thing fails to authenticate their thumb print? The second weakness is that the banks are reticent to hand over consumer data to Google, whose main business is advertising; Apple, in comparison, makes money by selling hardware and has little interest in logging customers’ spending data, instead choosing to strike financial deals with banks.

        2. Adoption of Apple Pay is expected to be swift, given Apple’s clout with retailers and the sheer size of their consumer market. Major banks — seeking to reduce fraud by pushing biometrically-authenticated mobile transactions — have swarmed aboard, and Apple Pay will be compatible with the lion’s share of debit and credit cards issued in the U.S. once it is officially released in October.

          Uptake for rival systems that predate Apple Pay, like Google Wallet, has been comparatively sluggish. Some have suggested that banks are reticent to hand over consumer data to Google, whose main business is advertising; Apple, in comparison, makes money by selling hardware and has little interest in logging customers’ spending data, instead choosing to strike financial deals with banks.

          Despite giving up a small portion of their revenue to Apple, banks seem convinced that reductions in fraud and, later, the possibility of increasing the volume of small transactions — the kind that are now settled mostly in cash — will lead to a net increase in profits with time.

          1. given Apple’s clout with retailers and the sheer size of their consumer market.

            Actually Apple’s deal only covers 3% of the merchants while the 97% are not.
            The biggest wait will the merchants upgrading their system to meet the fraud liability switch over come 2015 however there will be a payment fragmentation which everyone trying to get on board and that will make it difficult for adoption. Does MCX’s CurrentC ring a bell? CurrentC uses bar code to process payment which is so 2011. Many of the retailers who are on board with MCX are required to be part of the system for three years.

            Using biometric as a passkey to process payment is ripe for fraud, simply I can get a copy of your thumbprint and use your phone to pay for things.

          2. ripe for fraud, I don’t think so really, because it will be easier to go after credit card numbers for people w/o finger print sensors and in any event the fingerprint translates into a very long token which changes every time the card is used. Also the sensor won’t work unless an actual warm thumb is used. Yes it technically can be done but the average punk in the street has no clue how to do it. It would take organized crime to have the know how and the resources to do it. In any event its a lot easier just to skim current POS readers

        3. let me ask you this : which sound bite sounds better Apple Pay or Google Wallet? For me the answer is the latter, When someone mentions my wallet I immediately start thinking , “Watch out, someone is after my money” where as with “Pay” I feel that I’m getting something.

          Being successful in business is about have a well thought out idea, believing in it, getting everyone on board, articulating it and executing it with amazing momentum,. If you compare the roll outs of google wallet compared with Apple Pay, I think you will see that Google has failed they have very little momentum and lack luster pickup. Apple has made a very good start, there is very good momentum, many people are talking about it, the banks are signing up etc. time will tell if Apple will succeed, but doing so will involve executing, and sustained clear advertising campaign.

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