Not content to rest with the recent re-launch of its Android Pay service, Google announced Wednesday it is testing a new mobile payment service that requires nothing more than your initials and face.
Rather than digging through your pockets to grab your phone or wallet, the new “Hands Free” app allows consumers to simply say “I’ll pay with Google.” From there, a Hands Free user only has to provide their initials and the cashier will be able to verify their identity using a photo uploaded to the consumer’s Hands Free profile.
For additional verification, Google said the installed Hands Free app uses Bluetooth low energy, Wi-Fi and location services on a user’s smartphone to determine whether a customer is near a participating store. A cashier can only make a charge to a user’s Hands Free account when their device is near the store, Google said.
Users will receive instant notifications after every purchase, and will be alerted to any unusual activity, Google said. Suspicious transactions will require user verification before they will be processed, the company said.
The technology appears to be similar to a former app from Square called Square Wallet that allowed for card information to be stored in the app and customers to pay by checking in to a location and giving a cashier their name. However, Square shelved that service in May 2014 after it failed to gain sufficient interest from consumers.
Google said its system is still in its early stages, but noted the pilot is being rolled out in a small number of McDonald’s, Papa John’s and other restaurants in San Francisco’s South Bay area.
In addition to trials with cashiers, Google said it is also experimenting with a visual identification system that will allow an in-store camera to automatically confirm a Hands Free user’s identity. Those confirmation photos would be deleted immediately after the transaction, Google said.
Google said the credit or debit card information entered into the Hands Free app is not shared with the stores receiving payment.
According to Google, the Hands Free app is available on Android devices running Jelly Bean 4.2 or higher and on iPhone versions from the 4S and up.
Google’s introduction of this product marks the next step in eliminating friction in the mobile payment space. Initially, Samsung tried to appeal to users by combining NFC and magstripe technology to make its Samsung Pay system compatible with more payment terminals.
But according to experts, mobile payment systems – which are currently only utilized by around 10 percent of users with payment-capable devices – won’t fully catch on until they offer something more than what is possible with traditional credit cards.
“The transition to mobile payments will only take place when consumers see that using mobile devices for payments provides them with added value and convenience beyond plastic cards,” IDC Financial Insights research associate Robert Smythe said in a recent report on mobile payment progress in Canada.