Google has announced a partnership with mobile payment firm Softcard that aims to improve Google Wallet features and challenge Apple Pay in the emerging contactless payments market.
On the Google Commerce blog, Ariel Bardin, vice president of payments at the company, revealed that Google will also work with AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless to improve contactless payments for US-based Android device users.
"Under this relationship, the Google Wallet app, including the tap and pay functionality, will come pre-installed on Android phones (running KitKat or higher) sold by these carriers in the US later this year," he wrote.
"We're also acquiring some exciting technology and intellectual property from Softcard to make Google Wallet better," Bardin added, though he did not reveal what that technology was or how it would improve the Android payment app.
Android users have been able to use a "tap and pay" feature on smartphones and tablets equipped with near-field communication (NFC) chips since it was introduced into Google Wallet in 2011.
The move will likely challenge Apple's iPhone and iPad contactless payment service Apple Pay, which was introduced into the US market in October 2014.
Google did not reveal whether it is bringing the benefits of the Softcard partnership to the UK market, but with Apple Pay due to enter Europe this spring, it is likely Google will not be far behind.
The partnership with Softcard may be at odds with Samsung's acquisition of LoopPay, given both firms are trying to improve contactless payments for Android.
Google may see Samsung's move as a way for the Korean giant to drive its own contactless payment ecosystem, thereby diluting the company's reliance on Android at the core of its smartphones and tables.
V3 contacted Google for more information about its contactless payment ambitions but the company has yet to respond.
With Apple, Google and Samsung all making a play for the contactless payments arena in the US, the market is likely to become fragmented, particularly as credit card companies have generally refrained from favouring one mobile platform or payment service over another.
This is in spite of MasterCard working with Apple to help it bring Apple Pay to Europe.
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