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Android Pay vs Apple Pay: How do they compare?

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AndroidPayvsApplePay

Apple Pay vs Android Pay: With the launch of Android Pay in the UK, both Apple and Google’s mobile payment systems are now available for US and UK users. But what's the difference between the two? We investigate...

We’ve been waiting for some time for Android Pay to hit the UK, and now the service has finally made its way across the pond. Which means, those of us in the UK now have a choice between using Google’s wireless payment service, or the iOS alternative, Apple Pay.

Which one you use will be down to which phone you have. But in a head to head contest, which service comes out on top? We’ve had a chance to put both Apple Pay and Android Pay through their paces. Here’s what we found.

Related: What it's like to use Android Pay

VIDEO: Android Pay UK hands-on: How does it work?

When are Android Pay and Apple Pay coming out?

Both services are available in both the US and UK now. If you have an iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, or an iPhone SE you can ditch that wallet and use your phone for mobile payments. iPhone 5S users can also make use of the service by combining it with an Apple Watch.

If you’re an Android devotee however, you’ll be able to use Android Pay, which was launched in the UK this May, as long as your handset uses Android KitKat 4.4 or higher, and has an NFC chip. You’ll also need to be with a particular bank in order to use Android Pay. More on that later.

Related: Android Marshmallow features: What's new?

Express

Android Pay vs Apple Pay: How do they work?

As with so many new technologies today, the biggest worry about something like Apple Pay or Android Pay is security. Doubly so when there are potentially big sums of money to talk about (more in people’s banks than the transactions themselves).

Both systems appear to work in a similar way. They don’t copy or emulate the signal used when you make a contactless payment with your debit card. Instead, they create a virtual card that's used to make the transaction, so that your actual bank details aren’t involved in the transaction. Of course, this is what makes the relationship between Google/Apple and the banks so important, since the interaction is quite different to the standard contactless approach.

You won’t have to worry about this end of the deal too much, though. You’ll simply register your card with Apple Pay or Android Pay, then use the system and the required amount will be removed from your account.

Both systems use NFC as their method of communication. This has been available in Android and Windows phones for years now, but Apple only added it to the iPhone range last year with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

NFC stands for Near-Field Communication and is a wireless communications standard that uses a specific chip inside a phone or tablet. We’ve been waiting for years for services like these to essentially validate NFC’s inclusion in phones, although NFC is also widely used to aid pairing in Bluetooth wireless audio devices such as headphones and speakers.

But back to the money...

Related: Google I/O: Everything that happened

Apple Pay

Android Pay vs Apple Pay: Which shops accept them?

Where Apple Pay and Android Pay can actually be used is limited by the country you reside in. However, the most recent official figures say that both systems can be used in over 700,000 stores in the US. In the UK it is supported everywhere that contactless payments are, including throughout the London Underground.

This is pretty telling: it looks like Apple has done most of the groundwork, then Google has come in and done deals with a lot of the same companies. As the systems appear to use similar tech, it looks as though it’d simply require the signing of another contract, not loads of back-end work.

Android Pay also puts a bit more emphasis on payments made online as well as in-store, though. That’s because it has had its own online payments system for quite a while now, called Google Wallet.

Android Pay is really a development and branching out of this service, which launched four years earlier (in 2011) without much success. Here are some other services Google has confirmed as accepting Android Pay:

  • Uber
  • Groupon
  • Livingsocial
  • Domino’s
  • hotels.com
  • Travelocity
  • Expedia

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In these cases, the option to buy something using Android Pay will be built into the respective app, removing the need to save your card details within the browser or type them out laboriously.

You’ll be able to make similar in-app payments with Apple Pay too. 
In many respects they are very similar.

Android Pay vs Apple Pay: Which devices can I use?

In typical Apple fashion, though, Apple Pay is very restrictive about the phones than can use its Pay service. However, it’s purely a technical issue.

NFC is needed and that’s only found in the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, and the newly launched iPhone SE. Earlier models just don’t have the chip required.

A teardown of the iPad Air 2 revealed it has an NFC chip, but doesn’t have the periphery antennas or boosters needed to make the chip work properly. Apple’s own documentation shows that iPads are designed to work with in-app Apple Pay only, not the version used in stores on the high street.

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On the Android side, things are much more open. An Android device simply needs to have NFC and run Android 4.4 KitKat or newer. That green-lights an awful lot of devices, including budget phones and tablets like the Nexus 7. Whether you’d want to use a tablet to pay for things is another matter. But, hey, people use them as cameras already.

Android Pay vs Apple Pay: Which Banks support which service?

When it comes to the UK, Apple Pay definitely has the edge in this department. Lloyds, RBS, M&S Bank, Bank of Scotland, Halifax, Ulster Bank, American Express, Santander, First Direct, Nationwide, MBNA, TSB, Natwest, HSBC, Barclays, and Barclaycard all support Apple Pay.

Android Pay, on the other hand, is supported by Lloyds, HSBC, MBNA, Bank of Scotland, Nationwide and First Direct. But you’re out of luck if you’re a Barclays, Natwest or Santander customer. Barclays seems to have completely ruled itself out of ever supporting the service, but we’re hopeful it’ll one day hit the others.

When it comes to your UK debit or credit cards, Apple Pay supports Visa, MasterCard, and American Express, while Android Pay supports MasterCard and Visa.

Android Pay vs Apple Pay: How about security?

We’ve already talked a little about security, but let’s go for a closer look. One of the key worries is whether the information that’s transmitted from your phone actually contains any of your card data, encrypted or otherwise.

At I/O 2015 Google confirmed Android Pay does not transmit any of your actual data. Instead, there’s an extra level of protection where Google creates a virtual card, meaning the transaction is always really between you and Google.

Both systems also welcome the use of fingerprint scanners as an extra level of device-side authentication. Apple had this from the launch of Apple Pay. And with system-level fingerprint scanner support in Android Marshmallow, it’ll be in Android Pay before it comes to the UK by the looks of things too.

Touch ID

Android Pay vs Apple Pay: Which is better?

Is there a winner here? Not really. Both systems use the same basic technology, similar security and have the same aims.

They are simply the wireless payment systems for their respective OSs. We have to give a nod to Google for its more inclusive stance, though. Even fairly old phones will be able to use Android Pay, while only the very latest iPhones can make use of Apple Pay.

Still, in the UK, Android Pay isn't yet supported by all the major banks , something which Apple Pay users don't have to worry about. No doubt this will change in the future, however.

Which do you prefer? Let us know in the comments.

Everlast

May 29, 2015, 10:33 am

Apple Pay? Android Pay?
they don't pay anything, I am afraid its always the consumer who pays at the end :)

mark2410

May 30, 2015, 2:15 pm

"What's the difference between Apple Pay and Android Pay"

none because we still cant fcuking use either of them!!!

Timi Azeez

September 10, 2015, 5:08 pm

If you have an S6,Edge,Edge+ or Note 5, you can use Samsung Pay without even worrying about NFC because it also uses MST for magnetic strips which I have tested and works seemlessly.

JayV81

October 9, 2015, 6:39 am

Android copying Apple as usual.

Jeremy Rimpo

October 22, 2015, 3:02 am

And Google Wallet laid the groundwork for both of them... People seem to think Apple Pay was first because Apple made a big fuss about it. Really it was the same thing, just slightly more secure and slightly more convenient. And then Google 'caught up' to Apple's improvements by securing and simplifying their system (and renaming it, for reasons).

Douglas Anderson

January 29, 2016, 11:36 pm

Completely inaccurate article. Android beat Apple by years to the mobile payments arena. Heck. Google Wallet was better than both.

Douglas Anderson

January 29, 2016, 11:37 pm

Actually, Apple copied Google Wallet. Heck every "new" feature Apple has introduced in the last 5 years Android had first.

Vahdyx

April 27, 2016, 1:25 pm

Another blissful uninformed Apple user!

-sent from my iPhone 6S Plus

Seriously I love my iPhone and I will bat against any Android person saying their phone is better than mine, why? Because I like it more, but let's give credit where credit is due. Lately Apple as done nothing but take Android features and add their own spin to it for iPhone. Which to be honest is a great thing. I may give the HTC 10 a try but maybe not. We'll see. But for now iPhone is where it's at. New apps first, app support, better game experience, iMessage standard and integration where as Android still uses SMS mainly. Try convincing all your friends and family and your random craigslist person to use Viber, Skype, hangouts, etc. not gonna happen.

Anyway without making this too long. Mobile payments, big phones, stylus', keyboards, etc. all android innovations that us iPhone users now get to enjoy.

advocatedevil

May 16, 2016, 7:47 pm

Apple never invented much in phones! They just copy and make a big marketing campaign about what they do! Apple did not invented touch and apps! Others companies were there before them like 3com and Nokia with all this!

toboev

May 18, 2016, 9:26 pm

Security is one thing. But what about the privacy? Who gets a hold of your spending patterns? Who gets to know what you buy, where you shop, how much you spend, when you spend, etc. That is a goldmine of information, but none of the tech blogs has bothered to explain what happens there, probably because they are just regurgitating what they were fed at the launch events by poeple who don't want to talk about that.

There is no free lunch, I know I must be paying for these "Pay" services, I suspect that payment takes the form of data with a market value. Do your job, please inform.

Chief

May 18, 2016, 9:54 pm

Can I borrow your tin foil hat when you're done with it?

toboev

May 18, 2016, 9:56 pm

Oh bravo, how original! Now answer the substantive point, if you are able.

Steve Hooper

May 19, 2016, 5:02 pm

During the 2012 Olympic Games, Visa teamed up with Android and Samsung to trial Contactless Mobile Phone Payments!

Jimk4003

May 20, 2016, 9:22 am

"Do your job, please inform."

It's your job to be informed - it's nobody else's job to inform you. That said...

There is surely a reasonable expectation that a company providing a payment service will have access to the details of the payments you are making? These services won't work otherwise.

My bank and credit card company know details of every transaction I've ever made with them - necessarily so. Furthermore, banks have, for years, used data analytics to analyse user spending patterns for marketing purposes. See this article from 2012 for more information on the practice:

http://www.economist.com/news/...

If you look in the terms and conditions of your existing bank, you will probably see statements referring to data being used or shared for 'transactional analysis'. In other words, if you have a bank account or credit card, you have likely already given your consent for your transactional history to be data-mined.

This business model has existed for years in the wider banking sector. It strikes me as odd to only start getting concerned about this practice now that large tech firms are involved - hence the other commenters jibe about your 'tinfoil hat'. The truth is, if this type of financial data-gathering concerns you, your best bet is to close down any bank accounts you may have and keep your cash under your mattress.

It's also worth bearing in mind that these services are totally optional for those who wish to use them. Neither Apple nor Google have a gun to your head!

Finally - all of the above information (and far more) is freely available online for you to research. Perhaps consider this before berating others for not doing 'their job' of keeping you informed.

Cyberspy

May 23, 2016, 1:43 pm

Why is a proprietary system like iMessage so much better than a cross platform app like WhatsApp?
If you think it's hard to convince someone to use an open system like that, how much harder would it be to convince 82% of phone users (everyone who is not Apple) to use a system that is only available on 18% of phones?
iMessage is just another way for Apple to lock customers in to their eco-system, to give them longer to drain your bank accounts paying for extra expensive cables or apps.
Apple's core skills are hardware and marketing. They do these very well. Software is not so good, and iMessage is just one example.

Oh, and I got my new HTC 10 last week. When I put it next to an iPhone, and the functionally stunted iOS (where are the desktop widgets with live feeds of weather, news, social media updates etc etc?), there is just no comparison. iOS's market share has started its inevitable decline!

Refs http://www.statista.com/statis...
https://www.netmarketshare.com...

Brian

May 30, 2016, 6:00 am

I know people who are hesitant to switch to Android solely because of iMessage. Everyone they know uses iMessage. This wouldn't be an issue if they all used something cross platform. It's indeed a way for Apple to lock customers in. It's actually brilliant on Apple's part.

andrew159159

June 2, 2016, 10:58 pm

If we answer your point, can we have your hat then?

andrew159159

June 2, 2016, 11:03 pm

Funny, that won't work in any other country bar America.
In Europe we are so far ahead, we use something called chip and pin, besides nearly every shop in the UK, at least, has contactless now.

Will Davis

July 6, 2016, 12:18 am

Halifax also supports Android pay. Works fine. Only come across 1 machine that won't accept it, only worked for Apple pay.

Bubba Jones

August 21, 2016, 4:41 pm

JimK4003, bravo, your response is spot on.

thetellurian

August 26, 2016, 6:28 pm

toboev, you are on point.

The privacy implication of these pay apps is an important consideration and should have been a part of the analysis of "Android Pay vs Apple Pay".

Basically in terms of Privacy, Apple Pay is in the lead. Searching for "Apple pay privacy" leads to their privacy policy which states "Apple doesn't’ collect any transaction information that can be tied back to you". Searching for "Android pay privacy"; I couldn't find any information from Google on what data is stored. Based on an article on linkedin, it statest that Android Pay basically collects all information on the transaction.

What others here fail to understand is that while banks have access to all your transactions, they don't have access to your browsing history, your location history, have the ability to scan your email messages, know what apps you have installed on your phone, how you use them, or are constantly tracking your habits around the web. Giving your buying habits that are occurring outside of the web to Google or Apple adds to this profile these companies have been creating on you. Whether you want that or not, having the information available to you gives you a choice of going with one or the other or neither. Also if you are careful and have been opting out of the tracking process by using additional tools, you don't what to give up control by using an app that compromises your privacy further.

It's the job of these articles to inform otherwise what is the point of reading them?

Maria talamantes

November 4, 2016, 1:06 pm

Google wallet has the worst customer/ tech support assistance. I had to delete my gmail account because it got into the wrong hands and when I tried to use my google wallet card with my name on it and card Number embossed on it, it wouldn't work. Apparently if u loose your associated google account u also loose your wallet and money in it. I called and over the course of 3 months of back and forth emails and climbing up the latter with promises to release my money there final answer was we apologize but we brought up your issue with our superiors and the have denied the release of your funds to an outside account. The funds are virtually stuck in a deleted account and no one including ourselves have acces to it. Thank fully it was only $80 they said so it shouldn't be such a hard loss. Wow! I still can't believe there solution. A check in the mail from google would have been last case scenario!

Sun Sand

November 17, 2016, 12:39 pm

Great Response, Thx Much!!

Joe Sarkozi

November 18, 2016, 4:11 am

History may not agree with you...but the iPhone has been widely copied (some may claim the concepts ripped off) since it's introduction.....that is all history will remember....

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