Google is still in the process of bringing Android Pay to merchants around the U.S., but the Internet giant is now extending a new pilot project that will let you sidestep the need to “tap and pay” with any physical contraption.
Available now for Android and iOS, Hands Free was first teased last May, though no launch details were given for the service. Now, however, Google is inviting South Bay (near San Francisco) residents to take part in the early-stage program, though it will only be open to a “small number” of local eateries, including McDonald’s and Papa John’s.
Once you’ve installed the app and completed your profile, Hands Free uses a mixture of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and location-based services on your phone to establish whether you’re in close proximity to a participating outlet. When you go to pay, you tell the cashier that you’ll pay with Google, give them your initials, and the cashier then verifies that you are who you say you are by looking at the photo on your Hands Free profile.
In some stores, Google said that it’s doing away with the need to use your initials altogether — a carefully positioned camera will scan your face and match it against your profile to authenticate and process the transaction.
With companies such as Google, Apple, and Samsung all fighting for their share of the lucrative mobile payments pie, we’re already seeing significant steps toward a true friction-free shopping experience. Cash has been becoming obsolete for some time already, with contactless cards and more recently mobile phones stepping up to replace paper and coins.
But what Google is doing now is seeing how far it can push the boat out — why the need to swipe or tap at all? “Imagine if you could rush through a drive-thru without reaching for your wallet, or pick up a hot dog at the ballpark without fumbling to pass coins or your credit card to the cashier,” said Pali Bhat, senior director, product management at Google, in a blog post.
It’s still early days, but Hands Free gives a glimpse into the future of commerce. But it will also raise some privacy concerns, given that Google and retailers will be scanning customers’ faces in some locations, although Google is quick to point out that the images are deleted “immediately.”