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How Google took a page from Apple to secure Android Pay

Caitlin McGarry | June 2, 2015
Android Pay is incredibly similar to Apple Pay, and not just the name.

No fingerprint? No problem

Google's biggest Android issue is fragmentation--the fact that not everyone can install the latest version of its OS at the same time--so it made Android Pay backward compatible to devices running KitKat and up (two OS versions ago). But only the latest version of Android supports fingerprint authentication for purchases, and not all Android phones have fingerprint sensors. If a phone lacks a fingerprint sensor, or if the phone isn't on Android M, then Android Pay reverts to a passcode or pattern unlocking mechanism, losing the security inherent in fingerprint authentication to begin with--and basically making the new feature new in name only.

Apple has the advantage of being able to push out software upgrades instantly, which means every iPhone owner with compatible hardware (6, 6 Plus, or Apple Watch) could immediately start using Apple Pay on launch day. And while it would be great if Apple fans with older iPhones could use Apple Pay, too, the security features just aren't in place (unless you have an iPhone 5, 5s, or 5c and an Apple Watch). Don't have a fingerprint sensor in your iPhone? Sorry, no Apple Pay for you. Better safe than sorry.

But Google beefing up its mobile payment service to compete with Apple is good news, because it forces both companies to improve. For instance, Android Pay works with your rewards cards and loyalty programs, which Apple is reportedly planning to add to Apple Pay. Once retailers finally move to NFC payment terminals, paying for stuff with your phone instead of a physical card will at long last become the norm.


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