Stop me if you've heard this one before, but Google's got a way for you to pay for things with your phone. "What?" you ask. "That's been a thing since 2010." Yes, I say back to you. Yet here we are in 2015 and here comes a new thing called Android Pay. It lets you pay for things at wireless payment terminals using NFC, but it's also been designed to work within apps so that your payment credentials can follow you around.
Google's own showcasing of this here at its annual developers conference in San Francisco was just about as limited as when Apple introduced its own payments service (Apple Pay) last year. There are two things you can try to buy with a test phone: a bottle of soda and small, themed Android figurines, purchased from inside of shopping app Wish. I obviously went for the chemical bomb that is a 20-ounce bottle of cola. Doing that required pressing an unlocked phone up to an NFC terminal. I didn't know their code, so they had to unlock the phone then handed it over to me. I held it timidly toward the NFC reader, and it made a little beep. A small screen on the machine let me know I'd paid in full and with which credit card (it was an American Express), so I hit a button on the front, and caffeine dropped down with a satisfying thud.
The other test felt less viscerally exciting. I went to a special Google I/O-themed page of shopping app Wish, and paid for everything with someone else's Android Pay credentials. The checkout information was already filled out for me, I only had to tap an on-screen button once. There was no fingerprint needed, just like using Google Wallet.
You realize you're still just buying small things
That's really the thing with Android Pay: even nice features like hiding your payment credentials from vendors, and getting to use a rewards card membership at the same time, ends up feeling just like the system it's emulating. You're still just buying things.
But that experience won't seem so painfully familiar forever, at least if Google has its way. Google's plans to integrate fingerprint sensors into the next version of Android, Android M. Some phones like Motorola's Atrix, Samsung's Galaxy S5, S6, and Note 4 smartphones already shipped out with readers. Google's hope now is that there will be many more phones with that in the future, all to let you use your fingerprint to do things like unlock your phone, pay for in-app purchases, and authenticate yourself inside of apps. For soda, and everything else.
Google I/O 2015: Introducing Android Pay