Google’s Android 4.4 KitKat Enables Google Wallet To Bypass NFC Restrictions

Payments, Google Wallet, Secure Element, NFC, Money, Telcos, Telecommunications, HCE, Host Card Emulation, KitKat, Android, Mobile Wallet, Mobile Payments

Google's Android is getting an update to Android 4.4 KitKat and, in doing so, is opening up Google Wallet to mass markets by bypassing the Secure Element that's controlled by telcos.

While it's certainly in Google's, and most customers', interests to get this software into the hands of millions easily, they've not had an easy time doing so.

Most of this comes from difficulties trying to convince telcos – who mostly have their own NFC or mobile payment service they wish to promote – from enabling this emerging payments platform from the search engine giant.

Integrated into the new Android operating system is platform support for secure NFC-based transactions through Host Card Emulation for payments, loyalty cards, card access, transport ticketing and other services.

This means that any app on an Android device running KitKat can emulate an NFC smart card, letting users tap to initiate transactions with whichever app they like.

Unlike before, this means that the Secure Element – which is previously bound to a phone's NFC chip – is no longer needed.

Apps can also be used as NFC readers for transactions too, opening up the world of Google Wallet to a thoroughly more receptive audience.

Of course, is this really a smart move in a world where users are growing increasingly weary of the security of NFC payment methods?


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  1. Dean Bubley

    It’s the only possible way to salvage something from the nonsense of NFC payments.

    Consumers aren’t “weary of the security of NFC payment methods”, they’re completely disinterested in NFC for payments in the first place.

    If NFC has any chance of being relevant whatsoever, it needs to FIRST be used for thousands of non-transaction, non-secure applications. Driven by developers, with no secure element or involvement from telcos, there *might* be some use for NFC for things like “click to like”, or swapping contact details, or ordering from menus and so on.

    After consumers have experienced a trillion or so non-financial “interactions”, they MIGHT start thinking about payments or other transactions, although I highly doubt it.

    Frankly, the whole idea of tapping an expensive & fragile piece of electronics against solid objects is idiotic to begin with. It’s hardly surprising that mPayments has failed from a combination of lousy ergonomics, cognitive dissonance, ridiculous value chain and zero benefit to the end-user.

    Dean Bubley

    1. Author
      Vaughn Highfield

      While I’m interested in some of the benefits that NFC payments offer, I’d have to agree. I’d be far more inclined to use NFC for other uses and make payments with my card or cash instead. I sometimes use my NFC enabled card, but most of the time stores don’t have the readers – at least not in the UK.

      Cheers for your thoughts on the matter Dean.

  2. Jason Nikolaou

    @disruptivedean I do agree with the opening comment, non-financial use cases and applications are needed to get people accustomed with NFC concept.
    The comment though continues to give the best example of how much misinformation revolves around NFC – were we supposed to be actually ‘tapping’ our devices against POS terminals?
    Wasn’t the technology branded ‘contact-less’?

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