Android Pay Swoops Into Over One Million U.S. Stores As Google Preps Battle With Apple Pay

Google tried the whole mobile payments thing once before. It was called Google Wallet and for various reasons, it wasn't a success. You could argue that one of those reasons was because it was an idea just slightly ahead of its time. Regardless, Google took a mulligan and is back in the mobile payment game with Android Pay, which is now functioning in the U.S.

The concept is simple -- rather than dig through your wallet or purse for cash or credit cards, you simple whip out your Android handset and let the magic of Near Field Communication (NFC) do its thing. Of course, there's a bit of setup involved, but once configured, the idea is that using your smartphone will be easier and more convenient than using cash or credits, which are so 2014.

Android Pay

To use Android Pay, you need an NFC-enabled Android device running Android 4.4 KitKat or later. It doesn't matter which wireless carrier you go through and it works with all four major payment networks -- American Express, Discover, MasterCard, and Visa -- with support for several major U.S. banks, including American Express, Bank of America, Discover, Navy Federal Credit Union, PNC, Regions Bank, USAA, and U.S. Bank. Support for Wells Fargo, Capital One, and Citi are coming soon.

There are over a million locations with NFC terminals supporting Android Pay. Places like GameStop, Subway, and Toysrus have them, as do Staples, Panera Bread, and several others.

This is shaping up to be a competitive landscape. Google's entry into the mobile payments field isn't the first -- Apple is already there with Apple Pay, and Samsung is giving it a go with Samsung Pay. Where Android Pay has a built-in advantage is in the number of Android devices in the wild.

As for security, your real credit card or debit card number is never actually transmitted. Instead, Android Pay beams a virtual account number to the NFC terminal as an added layer of protection.

Let the mobile payment wars begin.