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Will Google’s Android Pay Support Bitcoin?

Commentary by Giulio Prisco.Google has announced an upcoming mobile payments framework called Android Pay, Forbes reports. Android Pay will not be a separate payment app, but a platform that enables developers to integrate mobile payments into their apps using an API layer.Google's senior vice president of Android, Chrome and Google Apps Sundar Pichai announced the upcoming payment platform at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.“We are doing it in a way so that anybody else can build a payments service on top of Android,” he said at a press event. “In places like China and Africa, we hope that people will use Android Pay to build innovative services.”Android Pay will be an Android service that developers can use, through an API, within their own mobile payment applications. Google Wallet, the native Google payment service that was launched in 2011 but didn’t gain as much traction as Apple Pay, will continue to exist but it will become one more application built on the Android Pay framework.Initially, Android Pay will use near-field communication (NFC). Later, it’s expected that Google will enable Android Pay to use biometric devices such as fingerprint scanners. The data of Android Pay users will be stored locally so that payments can be made even without a data connection. To improve security, Android Pay will generate a one-time credit card number, or token, for each transaction.“Android Pay will allow companies to add a mobile payments option to their app, to which users can upload credit card or debit card information, so that payments become single-tap transactions within the app,” a source close to Google told Ars Technica. “In addition, a company adopting the Android Pay API will be able to allow tap-to-pay transactions in brick-and-mortar stores. This function will rely on Google’s Host Card Emulation (HCE), which makes it easier for third-party apps to take advantage of Android phones’ Near Field Communications (NFC) chips.” Further details are likely to be revealed by Google at the Google I/O conference in May.Another secure payment solution for Android developed by Rivetz, Trustonic, Intercede and bitcoin payment processors Coinapult and BitPay is being demonstrated at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and will be available in the second quarter of 2015. It will offer full support for bitcoin payments and integration options with external bitcoin wallets.Will the new Android Pay framework will support bitcoin payments? Pichai’s words, “We are doing it in a way so that anybody else can build a payments service on top of Android,” seem to clearly imply that any external Bitcoin payment service will be able to channel bitcoin payments through the Android Pay platform.Fast Company notes that once Android Pay is up and running it will open the door to partnerships with other companies that streamline payments for mobile users, including companies such as Stripe that let clients accept bitcoin payments.A Reddit post notes that “apps like Circle or Coinbase [could] use Android Pay APIs to pay for purchases in stores using NFC, instantly converting Bitcoin to fiat.” Some participants in the ensuing discussion thread express frustration at the ongoing mainstreaming of the Bitcoin space and fears that it will be controlled by the usual suspects, the financial establishment and corporate giants.It seems certain, however, that the availability of easy and secure bitcoin payments is needed to achieve widespread adoption.Image via HLundgaard.

Giulio Prisco

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