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Google Wallet payments are getting annoying, but Android 15 might fix that

Google Wallet is mandating phone unlock authentication for all contactless payments.

Published onMarch 22, 2024

Google Wallet logo on smartphone next to credit cards and cash Stock photo 7
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
  • Google Wallet now requires unlocking your phone for every contactless payment, regardless of the amount.
  • Android 15 might bring back secure one-tap transactions with new features for secure pre-emptive authentication.

Google Wallet users, particularly in Europe, are reporting a change in how contactless payments are authorized. Unlike before, regardless of the transaction amount, users are now required to unlock their phones with a fingerprint or PIN for every tap-to-pay purchase.

9to5Google first reported that many European users were taking to Reddit to express their frustration with this new payment flow. In some European countries, contactless payments traditionally function with spending thresholds, where transactions below a set amount wouldn’t necessitate unlocking the phone. While this change prioritizes security, it’s understandable that it disrupts the previously smoother user experience where smaller purchases didn’t require unlocking.

The situation in the US is different. Here, unlocking the phone is generally required for all transactions except for transit payments. However, unlike iPhones, where every payment needs authentication, recent unlocks on Android can sometimes suffice for subsequent Google Wallet transactions within a short window.

A recent update to Google Wallet’s support materials hinted at a future change, stating that “credit and debit cards won’t be charged for retail payments unless you’ve recently used a verification method.” While some users might already be experiencing this, it suggests a potential shift towards mandatory authentication for all payments in the near future.

However, there’s a glimmer of hope for those who are not ready to give up the seamless contactless payment experience. Android 15 might restore the convenience of seamless contactless payments while upholding security standards.

The recently announced Android 15 Developer Preview 2 includes features to streamline NFC interactions. As per Google, the newly introduced APIs will allow Android devices to listen to NFC readers without immediately responding. This paves the way for pre-emptive authentication, potentially enabling secure one-tap transactions without authentication in certain scenarios.

While Android 15 Developer Preview 2 is available to download for enthusiasts willing to brave potential instabilities, it’s best to wait for the more stable Android 15 Betas expected next month.

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