Google’s “Hands Free” payment method has gone live

by: John DyeMarch 2, 2016

When Google was teasing their Hands Free payment method last year, we didn’t really know what to make of it. The service allows users to pay at retailers and restaurants simply by mentioning that they’d like to “pay with Google.” At the time, the search giant was pretty elusive about how this system worked and what security methods would be in place. It turns out that some of our speculation was right on the money.

Hands Free is an app that runs on Android 4.2 and up or any iOS device from the iPhone 4S going forward. When you set up the app, you’ll create an account and link a credit or debit card to it. Upload a photo of yourself, and you’re good to go. When you walk into a Hands Free supported store or restaurant, the app interfaces with the cashier’s register via Bluetooth and wifi, so when you say that you’d like to pay with Google, all the cashier has to do is verify that you are who you say you are via the photo you uploaded. No cards, no cash, and you don’t even have to pull your phone out of your pocket. You just take your items and go, transaction processed.


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It’s a pretty nifty little system, although some are skeptical about how secure it is. Google says they are experimenting with additional verification methods including facial recognition cameras installed at the point of sale registers. It’s important to note that this payment system is completely separate from Android Pay, and right now it has an extremely limited rollout. Right now, Hands Free is only available in the US. On the west coast. Well, only San Francisco, actually. Actually only a small part of San Francisco. And only at a handful of McDonald’s and Papa John’s.

If Hands Free turns out to be popular and safe in this limited, public test arena, then we may see it expand significantly over the next year or so. In the meantime, what are your thoughts regarding Google’s new payment method? Creepy or the way of the future? Let us know in the comments below!

Get Hands Free on Google Play!
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  • Diego Opazo SV-Cross

    What if my twin borrowed my phone and tries to pay???
    What if my twin kidnaps my wife but also kills me???
    What if my order is wrong???
    What if Google is now evil???

    • Samuel Hauptmann van Dam


    • Richard Riker

      The twin thing is actually a problem, but maybe they will work together with Intel to bring RealSense to the retailers. In combination with Windows Hello it has already proven, that it works even with twins…so there only has to be a way to save such a biometric pricture yourself in your account.

    • munbo

      Also, you’re phone has to be present as well. Just as much risk as losing your credit card. Potentially less with the whole picture matching part.

      • Diego Opazo SV-Cross

        I agree.

  • ConCal

    Now this is the solution we are looking for.*

    *if it works as advertised.

    • CallinOut YoBullshit

      Google is really trying to think outside of the box here and I like that, but where I see it kind of falling short is that essentially you’re trusting people that make minimum wage to stand up to someone that may be trying to take your money. Good luck with that.

      • ConCal

        It’s no more trusting than how we pay with card, right? They tell you how much it costs, based off what they inputted, then you get a total and a receipt. The only difference is you pay that total with goggle not card. It’s not like paying with google will open up your bank account to them where they can choose to withdraw more than the total of the bill. In the same way, using a card doesn’t allow the employee to take more than the total bill.

  • John Doe

    So you are standing in a line with several others all paying with this tech, who does the cashier see show up?
    How does it know which card you may want to use?

    • Samuel Unger

      The first one is pretty easy to answer, there probably is like a button under the faces with a number on how many people are there. And the other one I’m sure it’s pretty simple to solve, choose one on the account before you go out, or the cashier asks which one and you respond with the ordered number the card is in.

    • mstinger

      You are trusting that the cashier is going to take the time to focus on the picture and make sure not to make a mistake. I look at the bigger problem with this, the cashier is not making enough money to care about the security of my account. I can see them carelessly hitting accept without being positive the picture on the screen is correct.

  • cristoux

    Well, this is cool and so natural, but I’m also ok with the fingerprint verification. Recording someone’s voice is rather simple but I don’t expect getting my finger chopped off anytime soon.

    • TheDude

      Did you even read the article?
      You tell the cashier that you want to pay with Google and he has to verrify your face with the photo provided through the app, it doesn’t use voice recognition… It uses manual face recognition, by a person (the cashier).

      They also mentioned considering using cameras for automated face recognition.

      • cristoux

        Anyone can print a picture of yours then BOOM emptied credit card

        • TheDude

          Yeah because the cashier will look at the picture you printed and not at your face… *facepalm*

        • Piero Collevecchio

          do you even know what you are talking about? if face unlock on the phone requires you to close your eyes to check if you are not using a photo, why do you think that this will work in a different way?

  • Daggett Beaver

    “When you walk into a Hands Free supported store or restaurant”

    Both of them.

  • Siphiwe

    I’m worried about being double charged on purpose by the cashier, stuff like this is very likely to happen. We’ll wait and see how it pans out…

  • FatherD

    What if Android Pay even rolled out fully first!

  • Jonathan Kramer

    I thought this was pretty funny especially when you get to where it’s available.. Since I live in the SF Bay area yet never use Papa John’s or MIcky D’s I think I’ll pass.. Android Pay still has a way to go when it comes to retailers that accept it too

    • Josh Brown

      There are other places that accept it, Papa John’s and McD are just the most recognizable.

  • Swordylove

    Doesn’t sound so secure. Just like the signature method, you have to rely on the cashier’s conscience for security. That’s pretty backward. I don’t like it.

  • Matthew Breuer

    Seems available in Silicon Valley (South Bay) not San Francisco proper.

  • Kitsilano69852

    Only in the USA…..while most android phones are located outside USA

  • atomicgarden

    The security issue I’m worrying about is this: You have hands free enabled. You’re walking down the street and notice you’re shoe is untied so you stop to tie it. Meanwhile the clerk in the store you stopped in front of gets a popup with a Pay With Google prompt. They’re hungry so they quickly scan a candy bar and hit ok. You walk away and don’t realize you’ve just made a purchase. Obviously facial recognition will help with this.

  • Charles Sweeney

    If only BT worked at that distance. Besides, the popup is only initiated by saying I’ll pay with google. So….