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The media has been awash with news from the recent Google I/O conference, but undoubtedly the most significant event for the travel industry was the announcement of Android Pay. This new mobile payment system is intended to compete with existing offerings from Apple and Samsung, and will be a replacement for the existing Google Wallet on smartphones across the planet.

Growing Mobile Payment Market

Google has acknowledged the importance of this market niche for the future of the company, and thus Android Pay will power in-app and tap-to-pay purchases on mobile devices. This system is intended to provide retail convenience for consumers, and will thus be utilised for small purchases, in the short-term at least.

Although Android Pay will now become a primary aspect of the Android operating system, Google Wallet is not being disbanded completely. Instead, the previous mobile payment offering from Google will be used to power Play Store purchases outside Android, and facilitate peer-to-peer payments that you can make through the app and on services like Gmail. Effectively, this is a rebranding of the service, while also expanding the capabilities of the mobile payment offering from Google.

If mobile payments have yet to really catch fire and capture the imagination of the public, there is no doubt that they will become a significant part of the economy in the next few years. Some bold predictions related to mobile payments have suggested that they will completely supplant cash and credit cards by the end of the decade. Considering the fact that mobile payment systems have taken a while to gain traction, this estimate seems rather wide of the mark, but what is certain is that many people will be paying for goods on a regular basis via mobile devices by 2020.

Google Attempting to Learn From Mistakes

Indeed, the Near Field Communication market alone is expected to total $150 billion worldwide by the end of the decade, and this is clearly a technology that Google intends to tap into. Android smartphones have had Near Field Communication technology for several years before any competition from iOS and Apple. But issues with carriers and manufacturers that distribute Android devices have prevented Google Wallet from realising its true potential.

Additionally, Google has previously had something of a disappointing relationship with major banks and credit card companies, failing to convince them to participate with its mobile payment system. This has meant that the recently released Apple Pay has managed to gained significant traction in the mobile payments market, and thus Google has obviously recognised the need to relaunch this service with Android Pay.

With the CEO of Apple Tim Cook recently claiming that Apple Pay is larger than all of its major competitors combined, it is clear that Android Pay has a significant amount of catching up to do, even if you do not accept the comments of Cook at face value. Regardless of this corporate wrestling bout, the big takeaway for travel companies is that the announcement of Android Pay further underlines the importance of mobile payment systems for the future of travel and tourism.

The Digital Tourism Think Tank has reported previously on the importance of mobile payments, and the extent to which mobile technology can be utilised to bypass traditional payment methods. Although it has been difficult to incentivise consumers to sign up for this technology, perhaps because it is not yet seen as being significantly superior to credit card payments, this tide is now steadily turning.

In a future in which wearable technology and such attendant functionality as mobile boarding passes will become increasingly important, and travel-related companies can utilise very sophisticated targeted advertising via mobile means, the potential for mobile payments in the industry is obvious.

Google Incites Big Merchant Interest

Certainly Google has doubled down on this particular technology. According to the corporation, seven out of ten Android devices are already fully compatible with Android Pay, with over 7,000 merchants able to accept the system in-store immediately. Google has learned from its past mistakes and has signed a series of deals with major carriers, banks and financial service companies ahead of the release of Android Pay, in an attempt to ensure that the technology gets out of the traps quickly when it is released.

Although Android Pay has a tough job to compete with the ever popular Apple, it is also worth pointing out that the number of Android devices in the world considerably outnumbers that of Apple iOS. So in the long term it certainly seems as if there is space in the marketplace for both of these two competing systems.

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