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Google Wallet moves to HCE for NFC payments

Google Wallet is terminating NFC tap-and-pay support for Android operating system versions that are older than Android 4.4 KitKat, according to a Google statement. The change comes into effect on April 14, 2014.

In November 2013, Google announced that Android 4.4 would support Host Card Emulation. HCE allows NFC applications on Android devices to emulate smart cards and financial institutions to host payment accounts in a virtual cloud.

Without HCE, NFC-based cards need to be stored in a secure element that is embedded in mobile phone SIM cards and controlled by mobile operators.

MasterCard and Visa have also announced support for HCE payments, as have BlackBerry and a number of international banks.

Tap-and-pay functionality for Google Wallet is currently only supported on U.S.-based devices, Google said. Google Wallet users with devices running older versions of Android will still be able to use the Wallet app to store their loyalty cards and Google offers. They will also be able to send money to friends, view orders and use the Google Wallet Card to make purchases.

Android 4.4 KitKat is only available on a small number of mobile devices and makes up 2.5 percent of the Android ecosystem, according to Droid-Life. Google has told its users that they will not be able to make tap-and-pay payments with their older devices until they've been updated to 4.4, according to Droid-Life.