In Android 4.4, Google introduced a new method of paying with Google Wallet known as Host Card Emulation, or HCE. It allows Google to bypass carrier rules that prevent an app from accessing something as integral as an NFC secure element. Instead, it would use just NFC safely. This means that Wallet users were no longer limited to Sprint or Nexus devices; even carrier branded devices updated to KitKat could now pay with Google Wallet Tap & Pay.
Unfortunately, it seems that Google isn’t keen on using the old method for much longer. The company announced that hardware running any version of Android earlier than KitKat will no longer be able to use Tap & Pay after April 14. This means devices stuck on Android 4.3, like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and many Sprint phones, will lose Tap & Pay functionality.
Luckily, I think so few people actually use Tap & Pay that it won’t be a big issue. Most devices that can use it in the first place are already running KitKat anyway. And with Motorola, Samsung, HTC and LG phones getting updated to KitKat left and right, the number of people that are able to use this feature is growing every day.
It’s unfortunate that Google has to limit an already limited service, but it’s really not a big deal. All other Wallet functionality, like sending money and storing loyalty cards, will continue working for everyone. Are you going to be affected by this new decision? Leave a comment!