Google Tests ‘Hands Free’ Mobile Payments

This looks intimidating.

How about an intimidating false dilemma?

Android may soon have a rival — within Google’s own suite of apps.

Android Pay has garnered an average of 1.5 million new registrations each month in the US, with over 2 million locations presently accepting tap and pay. Google is still resolute in expanding its service base to more countries worldwide — and to lengthening the list of stores and apps.

But Google isn’t a company to simply improve old ideas — it’s looking to the future of digital payments, too. Google asks us to imagine rushing through a drive-thru without even reaching for a wallet, or buying a hot dog at a ballpark without winding our cumbersome thumb to that extra nickel below the keys. To make this fantasy a reality, Google has developed a pilot app dubbed “Hands Free,” a new app allowing customers to pay with ease in the snap of a finger, sans hands.

We shouldn’t jump the commercial gun yet, because the app is still in its early stages. However, Google is inviting folks from the South Bay to test Hands Free in a recent blogpost. The app is currently available on Android and iOS devices, and is in the process of installation at a select number of McDonald’s, Papa John’s and other local eateries in the area.

After installing the app, customers will be pleased to learn that Hands Free’s use of Bluetooth Low Energy and wifi makes use of the phone’s “location services” to detect one’s presence in or near a participating store. Once loaded with food or goodies, all a customer has to do is tell the cashier “I’ll pay with Google,” then enter his initials and select the pic added to the Hands Free profile to confirm his identity.

If that isn’t cyberpunk enough, Google is also experimenting with visual identification, to equate showing one’s face in the store to authenticate ID. How does it work? The in-store camera will know who’s standing at register’s front and center by doing a quick compare and contrast with the Hands Free profile picture. (No Big Brother worries required, for all images captured during transaction are immediately deleted post-encounter).

Interested? Check out Google’s Hands Free website. After setting up a profile, customers can get up to $5 off their first Hands Free purchase at select stores.

Will Hands Free become part of Android Pay, or replace it? Read more about Hands Free on Google’s commerce site.

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