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Android Pay vs. Google Wallet: What's the Difference?

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This week, Google announced Android Pay—a way to pay from your phone. No need for credit cards; just tap your handset against any supported card terminal. Sounds great—but also kind of familiar. Didn’t Google Wallet already do that? I just tried Android Pay, and here’s the deal.

Basically, Android Pay is the same tap-to-pay feature of Google Wallet, except way less of a pain to use. With Google Wallet, you had to launch an app, then type in a pin so Google could unlock your credit cards. The whole idea of “Google Wallet” was also a little confusing, since the app doubled as a peer-to-peer payment system which could funnel money to a real, physical Google Wallet card too.


With Android Pay, you won’t need the app. You won’t need to enter a pin. It’s built right into the operating system. If you’ve unlocked your phone, you just place it up against the credit card terminal, and boom, you’re done. It’ll even automatically prompt you to use a loyalty card or gift card if you have one. I tried a demo here in person at Google I/O with a Coke machine, and it sure seemed to work!


It’ll also be able to make use of the native fingerprint scanner recognition coming in Android M, though Android Pay should work with NFC-equipped devices sporting Android 4.3 and above.

Where does that leave Google Wallet? A Googler tells us that Wallet will continue as a peer-to-peer payment system, and the physical Google Wallet card will stick around too. Android Pay is for tap to pay, and Wallet is for transferring money between friends and over the internet.

How do tap-to-pay systems like Android Pay (née Google Wallet) actually work? You can read our whole explainer right here.


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