Google is reportedly planning to introduce a new mobile payments application programming interface (API) at its Google I/O developer's conference this coming May, according to sources cited by Ars Technica.
Dubbed Android Pay, the API will allow mobile app developers to include a mobile payment option in their apps. Similar to Google's existing mobile payment system, Google Wallet, Android Pay will allow users to upload their credit or debit card information and authorize transactions with a single tap. Android Pay will also be used to pay for physical goods and services at brick-and-mortar stores, the sources say.
Not much else is known about Android Pay, except that the new API will be built by Google "from the ground up" and that it will use Host Card Emulation, a technology that allows a smartphone to communicate with a Near Field Communications (NFC)-enabled point-of-sale system without relying on a secure element. In contrast, Apple Pay, which saw a phenomenal launch last year, uses a secure element to store sensitive information such as the user's account number and fingerprint.
It is unclear what Google plans to do with having two digital payments systems to offer. Google Wallet already offers developers APIs that let their users pay for in-app purchases by tapping a "Buy with Google" button. Ars Technica's sources say Android Pay will continue to provide support for Google Wallet, but Google itself seems to be dropping hints as to what it plans to do with its first not-so-successful mobile payments system.
"As we continue to evolve and improve our merchant tools to meet new market challenges in the payments space, we will be retiring the Google Wallet for digital goods API on March 2, 2015," says Google in a page on its support database.
The move will only affect web developers offering Google Wallet as a payment option on their websites, and Google says Google Wallet will still be available for web and app payments of physical goods and services, in-app purchases, and all purchases on the Google Play Store and Chrome Web Store.
The report comes just a few days after Google's announcement that it purchased Softcard, formerly known as Isis, a carrier-backed electronics payment system whose initial goal was to bring down Google Wallet. With Softcard integration into Google Wallet, and possibly Android Pay, Google scored a major win as all Android devices to be purchased from Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile will come pre-installed with Google Wallet from now on.
Although Google was years ahead of Apple in terms of introducing mobile payments to the public, Apple is enjoying more success in convincing mainstream users to use the technology. Google Wallet itself saw a 50 percent boost in transactions week after week since Apple Pay. Still, Google and other companies are not satisfied trailing behind Apple and are attempting to get ahead of the race.
Samsung, as well, has partnered with LoopPay, a company that makes a wallet device that mimics credit card magnetic stripes, reportedly to introduce Samsung Pay. Starbucks, which has more than 12 million monthly active users on its combined rewards-and-payments app, is also considering partnering with other retailers to provide its mobile payments technology.