Watch out, Barclays. Google pilots Hands Free mobile payment

Not enough hands to cough up? There's an app for that

Google is testing a mobile payment system for those loaded down with too much shopping.

The ad-flinger is piloting Hands Free, a smartphone payment app that lets you pay for goods and services without removing your phone from your pocket or bag.

Hands Free uses a combination of facial-recognition, phone sensors, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to verify and execute a transaction.

The shopping encumbered simply tells the shop assistant “I’ll pay with Google” and the assistant will then confirm your identity using a combination of the shopper’s initials and a photo they’ll have uploaded to a Hands Free profile.

In-shop cameras will capture the shopper’s image to match it to the Hands Free profile. Google promised images are deleted immediately and would only be used to verify identity for that particular transaction.

Hands Free is for Google Android Jelly Bean 4.2 phones and iPhone 4S and later handsets. It’s separate to Android Pay.

The test is extremely limited at present – working at a small number of retailers in the South Bay – the area south of San Francisco, stretching through Silicon Valley. Stores accepting Hands Free are McDonalds’ and Papa Johns and “local businesses.”

It’s the latest – if limited – chapter in the evolving turf war over mobile payment being waged both tech vendors and the vendors and financial institutions.

Gartner reckons 50 per cent of smart phone and users of wearable tech in North America, Japan and parts of Western Europe will use their device to make mobile payments n 2018.

Following acceptance by merchants in 2015, Apple Pay is reportedly considered by some to be the lead contender among the tech firms’ offerings – used by 12 million consumers. Android Pay and Samsung Pay are each on five million.

Other contenders include PayPal spun out of eBay in 2015 with its own mobile payment option. The company is staking its future as a payments platform. Then, there’s traditional financial services firms like Barclays, with Pingit, letting you pay for and transfer money to others with a UK-registered mobile number. ®


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