SINGAPORE: Google's mobile payment system, Android Pay, on Tuesday (Jun 28) joined the mobile payments bandwagon in Singapore, making the city-state the first in Asia to have the system.
According to Mr Pali Bhat, senior director of product management at Google, which created the Android mobile operating system (OS), Singapore was selected as the third market worldwide after the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) to introduce its mobile payments offering because of its ready base of mobile-savvy consumers as well as a mature ecosystem.
His point was reiterated by Ms Joanna Flint, country director at Google Singapore, who told the media at a briefing on Monday that the tech giant could not have launched the offering without the banks' support.
At launch, Android Pay will work with MasterCard and Visa cards from DBS Bank, OCBC Bank, POSB, Standard Chartered Bank and UOB, and there is no limit as to how many cards can be added by the consumer, Google said.
The service is available on all Android devices that are near-field communication-enabled and running on Android KitKat 4.4 and above. When asked how many in Singapore are on compatible devices, a spokesperson declined to provide the number, but said it should be many since Android KitKat was introduced in 2013.
Android Pay was first launched in the US in September 2015, and this was followed by the launch in UK this May. Australia was expected to be the next market to offer the service in the first half of this year, but when asked, Mr Bhat said the company is still working with its partners in the country and the service will be "coming soon".
He added that the mobile payment platform will be introduced to other Asian markets, and he has been travelling extensively to the region to make this a reality, but declined to offer more details.
LATE TO THE GAME
Asked how Google intends to differentiate its offering and get consumers onboard its mobile payments platform, Mr Bhat said it is in how it designed the system.
For one, the app was designed to be simple to use and play a "key part" of the Android Phone, he said. The in-app purchase feature will also be turned on "later in the year" in apps such as Singapore Airlines, Deliveroo, Grab, Uber, Shopee and Zalora, Google noted.
Security was another key consideration for its design, and Mr Bhat said Google had worked closely with banks and payment providers prior to rolling out the service and that it had "adopted industry-standard tokenisation".
Channel NewsAsia tried the platform and besides the initial authentication to add a credit card into Android Pay, there was no need to authenticate again for individual transactions. In contrast, users have to authenticate using the fingerprint sensor for every Apple Pay transaction.
Mr Bhat added that Android Pay is not just for financial transactions, but also loyalty schemes that could be added to it. In Singapore, NTUC Link announced on Tuesday that its Plus! Rewards programme, which has more than 1.75 million members, will be one of the first in Asia to work with Android Pay.
For those with both Samsung Pay and Android Pay set up on one phone, Mr Bhat said they can choose a default platform so that just one of them will be activated when the phone is placed near a payment terminal.
Commenting on the competition, Forrester researcher Ng Zhi Ying said that consumers who own NFC-enabled Android smartphones are now able to adopt mobile payments, "whereas Samsung Pay is limited to consumers who own the more recent Samsung models and likewise with Apple Pay and their more recent devices".
MAKING A MEAL WITH MCDONALD'S
In terms of retailers offering Android Pay at launch, McDonald's, NTUC FairPrice, Sheng Siong, Giant and Watsons, among others, have signed up.
After your purchase with Android Pay, an e-receipt will be sent via email to alert you of the transaction.
McDonald's, for one, will be introducing a promotion in partnership with Android Pay. From Jul 7 to Aug 3, consumers who pay with Google's mobile payment system will receive S$2 off when they purchase a minimum of S$6 at McCafe, said Ms Tan Min Hui, director of information systems at McDonald's.
Ms Tan added that prior to Tuesday's launch, McDonald's had been working with Google to equip its staff to be familiar with the payment method. Since the start of May, all branch and zone leaders for every outlet in Singapore have been briefed on Android Pay and its use.
Its payment terminals are open to Samsung Pay and Apple Pay too, but there are no official tie-ups, she said.
ANDROID PAY FOR TRANSPORT?
As for whether Android Pay will be used to support the nation's transport system, Mr Bhat noted that transport operators such as Grab and Uber, as well as ComfortDelGro, are already onboard.
However, payments for trains and buses are not available at launch, he added.
The Google executive noted that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will be piloting an account-based ticketing system, and it is "excited" to get on once the regulator is ready with the system. In March, LTA had said it will be piloting the system in the fourth quarter of this year, which will allow commuters to use contactless debit or credit cards to pay their fare.