Google Pay finally feels like a core Android feature, and that's exciting

Google Pay Power Button Shortcut
Google Pay Power Button Shortcut (Image credit: Joe Maring / Android Central)

I don't know about you, but I really like mobile wallets. Being able to store all of my credit cards, loyalty programs, event tickets, and more in one single place on my phone is a huge convenience, especially as our world becomes less and less reliant on cash.

Unfortunately for Android users, Google has been trailing behind in these regards for some time. Using Google Pay for NFC payments works perfectly fine, but lacking support for digital passes and not having an easy way to access the service outside of opening the Google Pay app has put it in a noticeably lower tier compared to Apple Pay and even Samsung Pay. I roasted Google pretty hard about this last July, which is why I got so excited when my Pixel 4 received the March 2020 "feature drop."

Thanks to this update, Google Pay is just a button-press away.

Google's been using these feature drops for the last couple of months to bring new software features to its Pixel phones, and this most recent one added something I've been waiting for for a long time — an easy way to access Google Pay from anywhere on your phone.

No matter what you're doing on your device, even if the screen is locked, a long press-press of the power button now brings up a list of your credit/debit cards that are linked to Google Pay. Just hold the button, select the card you want, and you're ready to pay just like that. It's essentially what Apple's offered for Apple Pay since the iPhone X, and it works just as good.

Google Pay Power Button Shortcut

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

In addition to having quick access to your payment cards, the feature also reveals an emergency information card, as well as a shortcut to view any passes you have stored in Google Pay. Some people might overlook this feature and not think much of it, but as far as I'm concerned, it's a big accessibility factor Google Pay's been missing ever since it launched.

Google Pay works the same, but now it feels like a core part of the Pixel experience.

You can still just hold your phone near an NFC terminal for Google Pay to open up automatically and make a payment with your default card, but if you want to change your payment method or access a digital pass, you no longer have to search for the Google Pay app. From a user standpoint, it's worlds more convenient. Plus, if you want to look a bit deeper, it's a sign that Google legitimately cares about the service if it's willing to tie it to a hardware shortcut. Google Pay is now front and center on all Pixel phones, rather than feeling like a side project the company forgot about.

Does this update also solve the issue of lackluster passes I previously complained about? Sadly, no. That's something that isn't going to be resolved overnight, and it falls more on the shoulders of app developers rather than Google being 100% to blame. However, given the lack of interest Google's shown towards Google Pay since its big revamp in 2018, you can't fully blame these developers, either. Similar to what we've seen with Stadia and developers being hesitant to create games for the service out of fear that Google will shut it down in a couple of years, perhaps app developers have had a similar feeling with Google Pay.

Google Pay Power Button Shortcut

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

This shortcut, hopefully, is a sign that Google does still care about Google Pay and wants to shine a larger spotlight on the service.

The biggest downside to this is that the shortcut is only offered on Pixel phones, and while I don't envision it showing up on a Samsung device anytime soon, I wouldn't be surprised if it lands on other Android phones with Pixel-like interfaces — such as phones from Motorola, Nokia, etc.

I could be making too big of a deal out of a small feature, but even if this isn't a spark of revival for app developers to expand their Google Pay support, I'm still thrilled that we have the shortcut in the first place. Now, it feels like Google Pay is a core function of my phone that I won't soon forget. Assuming other Pixel owners feel the same way and start using Google Pay more than they were previously, who knows what'll happen next.

Read more: Google Pay shouldn't be so terrible in 2020

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

  • i loved google pay. loved it. now i have a samsung s20 and can say for 100% certain that samsung pay is vastly superior. it does pretty much everything better.
  • Google Pay is faster and easier to use. That's reason enough for me never even want to try switching to Samsung Pay
  • No it’s not. Samsung Pay is just as fast and easy, and works practically everywhere. Have you ever used it? Lol...
  • I've used it. Google Pay is the easiest and fastest method of payment. Literally don't even have to touch any buttons or screen to use it. Just raise the phone to wake the screen and tap to pay. Job done!
  • Samsung is the only one that works everywhere.
  • Google Pay literally works everywhere. Exactly the same technology as Samsung Pay using NFC. Oh except in the US who still use Flinstones MST readers 😂
  • No it doesn't. MST is the reason Samsung works everywhere. Want to switch to Google pay but it only works on MST. so I'm stuck with Samsung phones for now
  • Like I said. Only in the US do they still use obsolete MST card readers still. The rest of the world got rid of that over 10 years ago and NFC is used EVERYWHERE. Samsung Pay doesn't even have MST technology here in Europe because nobody uses it
  • I have a couple of questions: 1) Do you have to leave NFC on all of the time?
    2) Is there an authentication step? The article says this works even if the screen is locked. Can just anybody pickup my phone and press the power button and use it? I suspect that the answers are "yes" and "yes" to my questions.
  • Yes, you'll want to keep NFC on. No, someone can't just pick up your phone and make a payment. You need to still verify your ID, either by entering your device PIN or using your fingerprint sensor. On the Pixel 4 with its face unlock, it makes the experience really seamless.
  • You don't have to verify with any security method. As long as the screen is awake you just tap and pay. Not once in all the years I've used GPay have I needed to so you're right... Yes and Yes
  • Authentication is required.
  • Dude, I use Google Pay multiple times a day, most days and have done for years. Not ONCE have I had to enter a pin, a password or use biometrics. Even read the Google Pay instructions in the app and you'll see for yourself Maybe different rules dependant on country or payment amounts?
  • Just you have security turned on for your phone unlock? (Pin, face, pattern?)
  • Yep. You HAVE to have screen lock of some form turned on to use Google Pay. If you try and deactivate any security methods you get a prompt saying you can't use Google Pay. You just don't need to use when making a purchase (at least here in the UK)
  • I'm with dov1978. In the UK I've only ever had to authenticate with a fingerprint above £30. Anything £30 or below just needs the screen to be awake (effectively mimicking a contactless card - tap and go).
  • It's probably down to country, card and bank differences. In Croatia i can pay about 10GBP or 13E without authentication, above that it needs an unlocked screen. But it's the same for the real card i was using in GP, no pin till that limit, pin after it. Now i'm on Apple Pay, it requires FaceID no matter the amount on phone, but for Apple watch just a double press of the button, no matter the amount.