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The introduction of Tap & Pay in Android 4.4 has sparked the hopes of many Android users in Australia of an phone based NFC payment system such as that used in the US since the launch of Google Wallet back in September 2011, but as a traditionally US based service, will this work in Australia?

The ability to use your phone to tap and pay at any one of the hundreds of thousands of NFC enabled Visa Paywave or Mastercard PayPass terminals that are present in retailers across Australia has been a dream since Google Wallet was first introduced. What most discovered after the introduction though, was that Google kept Wallet closed to everyone outside the US, unless you went to lengths to enable it on your device.

Limitations on the way NFC works in its current form, where the NFC Controller contacts a Secure Element embedded in the phone to authorise payments based on information stored within, have restricted the rollout of NFC payments globally, as carriers have been in control of the information contained within and they have preferred – in the US at least – to back consortiums like ISIS, but with those consortiums seemingly halting NFC payments overall, Google has looked for another way to move forward and that’s where Tap & Pay comes in.

The Tap and Pay function in Android 4.4, is specifically centred around the NFC chip in the Nexus 5 being able to use Host Card Emulation(HCE) which allows the device to emulate an NFC smart card like that found in a Visa or Mastercard Credit Card – or many other NFC based cards – which according to Google will allow for NFC payments without the need for a Secure Element :

With HCE, any app on an Android device can emulate an NFC smart card, letting users tap to initiate transactions with an app of their choice — no provisioned secure element (SE) in the device is needed.

All this is well and good, but it seems that this may still be restricted to the US. A look at the Google Wallet Support page advises that ‘Tap and pay functionality is available in the US‘ but also requires specific hardware, in particular an NFC-enabled Android device with a Secure Element, running 2.3 (Gingerbread) or higher ‘on select carrier networks‘ which rules anywhere outside the US. Now, with Android 4.4 the page continues that you can also use Tap & Pay if you have ‘an NFC-enabled Android device running 4.4 (KitKat) or higher‘, but that still doesn’t mean that the Nexus 5 or even the Nexus 4 will allow you to use it, the page advises that both the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 :Must be used with a US-based SIM card to work.

So, the question is, will we be able to use it in Australia? Well, you still can’t install Google Wallet from Google Play, but you can get a region free modified version from MoDaCo so, at this stage there is STILL no official support for Google Wallet or Tap & Pay outside the US.

The real answer is that we’ll have to wait, once the Nexus 5 arrives in Australia and the rest of the world, we’ll begin seeing movement on this. But rest assured, we’re interested in everything about this new HEC NFC emulation and we’ll be trying out any and all functions of it, including any attempts to get Tap & Pay working in Australia.

Would you use a Tap & Pay solution like Google Wallet?

Source: Android Developers, and Google Wallet Support.
Companies: Sony