Google Wallet to U.S. Carriers: Who Needs a Secure Element?

Nov. 4, 2013

With the release of Android 4.4, Google has introduced a workaround that might solve one of Google Wallet’s thorniest problems. Aside from its partner Sprint, no U.S. carrier would allow Google the necessary access to the secure element of their subscribers’ phones that would enable them to make NFC-based mobile payments at the POS. The new version of Android, dubbed KitKat, features a virtual solution called “host card emulation” (HCE). Under the HCE solution, any Android app can emulate in a virtual way the physical smart card that enables the NFC transmission.

In a statement, Google indicated all Android 4.4 devices that support NFC will include Tap & Pay for easy payments using HCE.

“In theory, every Android 4.4+ device should just work with Google Wallet as long as it has NFC,” wrote Android Police blogger David Ruddock. “Being part of the core Android OS also means carriers and OEMs can’t strip out the functionality, as it would be a violation of their CTS certification agreement with Google. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Verizon.”