You’ve probably seen plenty of iPhone users waving their handsets in front of pay points at coffee shops, restaurants, and high street retailers to make their purchases with Apple Pay. Those of an Android persuasion can do just the same with a number of different apps.
We’ve gathered together the best alternatives to Android Pay so you can tap and pay, collect your loyalty rewards, or keep your travel tickets close at hand, all on your Android smartphone.
How do I use my Android phone to pay for things?
One of the most useful additions to Android in recent years has been the ability to purchase items in stores using tap and pay.
There are a number of apps that offer this feature, but they do require that your device has NFC capabilities to work with the contactless payment points. So, before you begin please check online to see if your particular unit meets these specifications.
The main app for Android users is Google’s own Android Pay. This replaced Google Wallet a while back, and offers an easy to use solution for settling up at the till without the need to look for your credit card.
You can use the app wherever you see the contactless payment symbol, and for purchases under £30 you don’t even need to unlock your phone. If you have a compatible Android Wear 2.0 watch then that can also be used as a payment device.
Before spending can begin, the app requires a compatible credit or debit card to be added. Most UK banks now offer Android Pay, and we hope that the remaining holdouts will soon acquiesce (we’re looking at you Co-Op).
Android Pay also allows you to add many of your high street retailer loyalty cards, meaning you won’t have to carry a wallet full of plastic anymore, plus you can use it on the London Underground.
While Samsung Pay has been available in the US since September 2015, it is yet to materialise in the UK. Current rumours suggest the end of April 2017 is the likely date, to coincide with the release of the Samsung Galaxy S8, but this hasn’t been officially confirmed.
Expect it to be along the same lines as Android Pay, and although the name suggests fealty to Samsung devices, it seems that the app will be freely available in the Google Play Store for owners of handsets bearing other banners.
Another stalwart in the digital payment realm is PayPal. Its Android app now offers the ability to pay in restaurants and shops, but the participating outlets appear to be small in number.
At the moment these consist of UK retailers such as Runners Need, Snow+Rock, Thomas Pink, Hobbs, Office, and a number of others, but many of the coffee and restaurant chains are absent. PayPal does say that it’s adding partners all the time, so maybe this is one to keep an eye on.
Apps for ticket and loyalty cards
If the thought of handing over your bank account details to app developers isn’t one that fills you with joy, there are some useful apps that can help.
This free app takes many of its design cues from Apple’s Wallet, and offers many of the same functions. You can store your plane and train tickets in WalletPasses, along with concert and event tickets.
All you need to do is scan their bar codes and the app does the rest. It can also import items from your email, and iOS devices.
Loyalty cards are a slightly longer process in that you need to scan their codes, then enter the detail manually. But it’s only a matter of giving the card a name.
Sadly there’s no obvious option for allocating colours to loyalty cards, so they all turn out purple. Hopefully this will change in the future.
Another well established wallet app is Pass2U, which again offers the ability to scan in tickets and cards, as well as searching email accounts for compatible items.
The interface is friendly, and you can customise the items you enter, making them easier to recognise quickly.
Pass2U offers support for the .pkpass files (as used on Apple’s Wallet) so you can import details stored on your iOS device.
It’s a nice app, well thought through, and has enough flexibility to make it a welcome addition to any Android phone.