Google Wallet 'tap and pay' can work on any Android 4.4 device, but still requires a U.S. SIM

Changes in Android 4.4 KitKat are going to open up the possibilities of using NFC payments through Google Wallet, but it may not go as far as we would hope. Although the Google Wallet app itself has been opened to install on any device, the ability to use it for NFC payments (aka "tap and pay") at physical stores has been dramatically limited by carriers and manufacturers. Responding to a post by Michael Bond on Google+, the official Google Wallet account gave us a bit of info today on the status as of Android 4.4:

If you have a Nexus 5 device, you can now use Google Wallet to tap and pay in stores with any carrier. We look forward to bringing NFC tap and pay functionality to more Android phones soon.

Now that doesn't exactly mean every device running Android 4.4 — it specifically refers to the Nexus 5. And in that respect, nothing has really changed just yet. The Google Wallet support page, which has been updated to reflect the Nexus 5 and Android 4.4 announcement, currently lists every device that is able to use Google Wallet tap and pay and the caveats associated.

According to Google's page, the set of supported devices is still slim and mainly includes popular Samsung, LG and HTC devices on certain carriers. The Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 are listed as well, but with an asterisk that reads "must be used with a US-based SIM card." The page reiterates:

At this time, tap and pay functionality is not supported for devices purchased internationally. The eligible device list above only applies to devices purchased from the listed carriers next to them. For example, an unlocked Samsung Galaxy SIII purchased internationally will not work with Google Wallet tap and pay.

The future of NFC payments on Google Wallet may be a bit brighter with the announcement today that Google Wallet will technically work for tap and pay without a secure element or carrier approval, but nothing will change until we see how Android 4.4 makes it to these carrier devices.

If you are coming from another Nexus device and getting a Nexus 5, functionally nothing has changed in terms of Google Wallet NFC payments. Google wallet tap and pay already doesn't work on Verizon, where the Nexus 5 isn't headed anyway. It is supported on the Sprint Galaxy Nexus, as well as with any unlocked Galaxy Nexus or Nexus 4 with a T-Mobile, AT&T or other U.S. GSM carrier SIM ​— the same being true for the Nexus 5.

Let's just hang tight on this one and see how it plays out — we all know the wireless industry is far from a world of absolutes.

Source: Google Support+Google Wallet; Google Developers

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

  • I don't remember since I don't have my Nexus 7 anymore. But shouldn't you be able to use it to tap and pay and without sim card?
  • Was really hoping it would be available in Canada with the update. Posted via Android Central App
  • I was too. Well, only hoping (without the "really" part). I doubt I'd use it much other then just for the "hey that's cool" factor a few times. Oh well... not surprised it's US only, considering I also found out my Gnex isn't getting 4.4 either.
  • Well, considering that you can use it at any PayPass terminal - it'll be pretty ubiquitous in Canada once it finally is released.
  • I wonder what kind of BS reason the carriers will come up with for blocking it this time. Hopefully I can get it on my Ultra when it gets Kit Kat. I'm excited about the possibility.
  • The carriers have never given a reason. They want a cut of the action.
    Its way past time for the FTC to look into this. Its data. The carriers have no right to block it.
  • They are paying for part of your phone, so they do get a right to block it. I'm not saying they should, though. If you want to escape carrier contracts and phones, get a Nexus or developer edition or non-carrier phone.
  • that does not make sense because if you buy a phone on ebay they would still block tap and pay on wallet
  • I paid full retail for my Droid Maxx so that argument isn't valid for me
  • Flip over your phone. Look at the carrier branding on the back. Your argument is kind of invalidated.
  • The carriers have no legal standing to block features. Verizon has lost large sums of money defending itself for such, and lost bigtime. Their blocking of Tap n Pay on unlocked devices (which are your own property and courts upheld your right to all features) is tortious interference.
  • flipped my phone over, no carrier on the back ... your argument is still invalid. It did however say Samsung, does that mean that Samsung wallet should be the only app that is supported.
  • Sorry, no they do not have any right to block it. As evidenced from Verizon's $1.25 million FCC fine and settlement. The FCC's 700mHz 'Open Access' rules prohibit blocking apps unless they deem it “unlawful or harmful to its network, customers, or customer devices”
  • They are not paying for mine (T-Mobile). Yet it's blocked. And I have Kitkat on G2... Really getting fed up with it.
  • Verizon came out and said they didn't allow it on their phones because the app uses the secure element on the phone instead of the SIM card, like ISIS. According to this, it requires a US based SIM card to work now. I'm assuming they're going to do like ISIS now. Hopefully that means Verizon will allow it on their Android devices whenever Wallet is open to more devices outside of the Nexus 5.
  • To me it seems like it's actually one of the reasons why the Nexus five it's coming to everyone except for Verizon . I really can't wait to switch carriers Posted via Android Central App
  • Don't forget that ISIS is a joint venture between AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. So if AT&T and T-Mobile are getting the Nexus 5 then that's still a reason why Verizon could have has this phone as well. I get the feeling that once the Moto X gets updated to 4.4 that it will be capable of tap and pay with Google Wallet. It didn't mention an NFC sim was needed so it looks as if Verizon will get Google Wallet as well on a phone. It just won't be a nexus phone. It will be on a Moto X and on their Droid line of phones.
  • wolverine2003 this is wrong as well. They claimed they blocked it for attempting to access the 'secure element' (which is IN the SIM card). There is no 'other SE' on the Verizon Phones. However shortly after Verizon approved ISIS, who's app accesses the same 'secure element', so watch another FCC fine and settlement come down. Verizon is just buying their ISIS wallet time to grow before they are forced to allow Google Wallet in.
  • they never gave an official reason no, but the "unofficial" reason can be summed up in one word that still makes me cringe...ISIS
  • Somebody please bring a class action lawsuit against these carriers. This is way beyond ridiculous now. I have LG G2 with KitKat on it, and it does NOT work! (I'm very much in the US, and have US SIM (T-Mobile)).
  • I was just thinking and it would be really awesome if Google figured how to put wallet onto a sim card and when inserted in a phone with NFC payment would process thru the sim... Kinda like a reloadable credit card... And you transfer money from your bank account to your wallet account... I have sprint galaxy nexus and love the tap and pay function.... And will be upgrading to the N5 Posted via Android Central App
  • Bravo to Google for figuring this out! Can't wait to try it in my Nexus 5! The carriers can stick isis...well you know where... Sent from my Moto X!
  • Isis is a joke. Not even available in NYC. Greedy carriers would rather not offer a service in hopes they will eventually get something working Posted via Android Central App
  • well dont forget...I think ISIS only supports 2 cards atm (Chase and I cant remember the other) it will not work on rooted devices
  • I can't tap and pay on my N4 but I thought I was able to at some point. When I try now it comes up as declined. Anyone know why?
  • when I had a N4, I used it all the time. Most recently used it quite a bit on my S4 Google Edition and looking forward to it on my N5!
  • Your carrier blocks it. It would not work on my N4 (declined) until I updated it to 4.4. Now it works fine.
  • i had the same problem, used to work fine then all of a sudden it started to declinded
  • Excellent news!
  • As far as my experience goes, this simply does not matter. My N4 has has always had this capability. Everytime and everywhere that I am paying for something, and I see the card-swipe-keypad has an NFC symbol on it, I tap my phone. Big national chains, small independent shops, high-volume gas stations, I try to use it everywhere. Do you know what happens? Beep And my screen turns on and says "unable to make transaction, check with cashier". Then the cash register jockey looks at me as if I have gone completely insane, and usually says something like "you can't pay with a phone like that... you need to swipe your card in there." One time at a small business, the owner was curious and asked me about it. I explained. He had never even heard of it (even though the hardware he had bought was capable of it). There is one exception. McDonalds. And only at McDonalds does Tap and Pay actually work. The convenience is nice, the techonolgy is great, but it entirely useless until the freaking merchants learn how to use the hardware they have sitting in their checkout lanes. I live in Charlotte. Although it is the south, it's not as if I'm living in some technological vacuum area.
  • I've had slightly better luck than that. It works at my grocery store, most Wawa gas stations (at the cash register; not at the pump), most new taxis, parking garage at the airport... But it is really frustrating when there's a touch-to-pay device and I get the "reader detected; please ask cashier" message. You're right, the look that the cashier gives in that situation is kind of embarrassing.
  • Yes, there are many places that have the terminals but haven't turned them on or connected them. Many of the merchants don't even know what they purchased. Also, the cashiers haven't been trained on the use of them. I've successfully used Wallet at CVS, McDonald's, 7-Eleven, and Macy's. There are actually a lot of places that are on the list of Wallet locations, but as stated before some of them don't have their terminals operational.
  • Oh no this sounds horrendous to me and my British awkwardness. I can imagine it now, I use a self checkout... tap and pay, fail... use my bank card, declined... pay cash, drop coins all over the floor! Think I'll stay indoors
  • Some places have the terminals but they are not functional. Do you ask them if people tap to pay before using even though they have the terminals?
  • I've used it on my HTC EVO LTE at McDonald's. I asked the cashier if she'd seen anyone pay with their phone before. She said no, cbs I told her she was about to see me try. It worked without a hitch. Maybe she's a better guesser, or perhaps actually did tell her what to do. That reminds me: I need to try it at Whataburger. Posted from my 1st gen Nexus 7 via Android Central App
  • When I hacked tap and pay onto my Note 2 it worked at almost any NFC terminal I used. And it was awesome. Until Wallet bricked my secure element randomly one day in July. Now it won't activate no matter what I try.
  • Can anyone explain to me why this software emulation isn't something that can be done through Google Play Services? It seems like, with the push to take control of Android updates and features back into the hands of Google, they would have implemented this through Play Services.
  • Weird, the support page makes no mention of the 2013 Nexus 7 and the GPE HTC One. Anyone know why? Posted from my 1st gen Nexus 7 via Android Central App
  • Well I know that the GPE HTC does not support Google Wallet. Not sure about the Nexus 7. I knew it wasn't initially available on the latest Nexus 7, but I think I recall reading somewhere that it will be supported once it is upgraded to Kit Kat. but by that logic, then I guess the GPE HTC would then be supported as well.
  • Disgraceful. Criminal.
  • no love for Australian's to use Tap and Pay... Its annoying having to pull my card out my wallet every time i wanna use PayPass why cant we just have it on our google wallet in Australia too! :(
  • I'm waiting on this to rollout
  • So... it will run on any device, as long as the device is running Android 4.4. I'm guessing it will be a long time before we see any Verizon or AT&T branded phones running 4.4. They won't have to come up with a way to block it... they just don't have to release device upgrades.
  • Well, HTC promised they would start the HTC One 4.4 update rollout on all carriers within 90 days, let's see how that goes.
  • One of the other key changes: Google Wallet now says that you need a network connection to make a payment in 4.4 - this may be an issue in shopping malls and larger buildings where in-building connectivity is limited.
  • It makes sense that this is the trade-off for not using the secure element. It seems the whole point of that technology was to allow purchases without an internet connection--it's a shame what the carriers did to screw that up. But the new way forward is certainly better than nothing for Tap and Pay.
  • There is also the further problem that even with a USA sim card in a USA phone... You still can't use it internationally. I tried in the UK and Google's merchant bank declined the transaction :-(
  • I just received the 4.4 update on my AT&T Moto X and while I could install Wallet and set up tap to pay, it is NOT working. I tested on a soda machine in my building that always worked with my Galaxy Nexus, and no go. I then sent one of my coworkers there with his HTC One on Sprint and it worked like a champ. Clearly, my X is not yet a supported device, despite the 4.4 update and the ability to download and run Wallet.
  • I have been able to tap and pay with my Moto X using Google wallet on Kit Kat 4.4. My carrier is Verizon. My problem has been finding enough places that have tap and pay sensors and getting some those to realize that the phone works just like the cards. One McDonalds tapped and it worked fine. The next had the tap and pay logo but claimed they weren't set up for phones. It wasn't until after I left that I realized the clerk probably assumed the phone needed to be scanned. Next time I'll just ask them to try tapping.
  • I've originally tried tap-n-pay on the Nexus 7 with Google Wallet and it worked flawlessly, but it ended up to big to carry around everywhere I go. A few weeks ago, I walked into AT&T asking for a SIM with a secure element to get ISIS working. They set it up and everything. ISIS even gave me a $20 credit to start using the service. ISIS only works through a Chase credit card or a reloadable Amex Serve Card, the latter of which I had to sign up additionally to ISIS to get the $20 credit. Now, Amex and ISIS is offering a 20% cash back reward for up to $1000 until 1/31/13. Compared to Google Wallet, it works mostly similar and almost as good. It works at the same locations as where I have used Google Wallet to pay with. The only problem is that I have to load in money from bank account, any type of credit card, etc.... into the Amex Serve card before hand, so that i can process the payment. It doesn't automatically deduct money from a designated credit card like Goog Wallet. I suggest you guys try it out if you r on AT&T for the credit and awesome cash back reward!
  • ISIS also integrates seamless rewards into it, notably My Coke Rewards. They start you off with 3 free drinks you can use at Coca-Cola vending machines, and keeps track of rewards as you buy drinks out of the vending machines. pretty neat incentive