Google’s new Hands Free app will let you pay in stores without even reaching for your phone

Hands Free by Google teaser 001

If you thought paying with Apple Pay is ridiculously easy and frictionless, think again. No, I’m not referring to Android Pay, Google’s near exact replica of Apple Pay that was unveiled at Google I/O yesterday.

Quietly unveiled yesterday, Hands Free is a new Google mobile app currently unavailable to the general public that promises to let you make in-store purchases without ever reaching for that phone in your pocket.

Details are scarce at the moment but it seems that Hands Free requires you to just tell the cashier you’d like to pay with Google. It’s basically Android Pay without taking your phone.

The search giant will roll out a preview of Hands Free to select stores in the San Francisco Bay area later this year, with launch partners McDonalds and Papa John’s already on board.

But how secure is this thing going to be?

Well, Google claims that making a purchase with Hands Free won’t share “your full card details” with stores.

“Once you complete a purchase, you’ll receive an instant notification right on your phone,” said the company. “We’ll also alert you to any unusual activity so you can go hands-free and be worry-free.”

Not sure if “doesn’t share your full card details” implies that some card details will be shared with merchants after all, but here’s how Hands Free is supposed to work.

Remarkable, eh?

For what it’s worth, PayPal and Square have experimented with similar schemes, utilizing geofencing to tell a store when a customer has entered in order to prompt the phone to pass payment information to the store’s terminals.

Square, for instance, rolled out its Card Case feature back in 2011. It even displayed the customer’s picture on the terminal so that cashiers could verify customers’ identity. PayPal’s Beacon, released in 2013, required users to carry a USB dongle that automatically checked them in when they entered a store.

However, neither one has caught on with merchants and customers.

Apple, of course, is said to be updating Apple Pay at WWDC next month with loyalty rewards and other new features.

And here’s Android Pay.

Like Apple Pay, Android Pay works with any merchant that accepts contactless payments via NFC. In addition, the service, which looks a lot like Apple Pay, will also work for purchases made in apps that have been updated with support for Android Pay.

Google did not say when Hands Free will be be available to the general public, nor has it detailed if the app will launch on the iOS platform. Merchants interested in being considered for Hands Free are invited to fill out a form on the Hands Free website.

Source: Google