Skip to main content

Google shutters Hands Free payment service, but hints it will live again

Hands Free Google
Hands Free, Google’s, well, hands-free method of mobile payment, is riding off into the sunset. The service, which launched in March exclusively in South Bay, California, will be shut down on February 8 — though the company is reassuring users that this likely won’t be the last they hear of it.

According to the website, Google is now working “to bring the best of the Hands Free technology to even more people and stores,” which hints that aspects could make their way to Android Pay down the line. Hands Free worked nothing like Google’s flagship payment platform, as it utilized a combination of Bluetooth Low Energy, Wi-Fi, location detection, and voice commands to function, instead of merely NFC.

Thus Hands Free was quite complicated under the surface, but theoretically simple in practice. Once the phone determined it was in a supported retailer, it would listen for a triggering command, like “I’ll pay with Google.” The clerk on the other side of the counter would verify the user’s photo ID that they uploaded themselves through the Hands Free app, and the deal was done.

Google was pushing Hands Free quietly, and locally. Last July, it encouraged individuals to try the experimental service through a promotion with McDonald’s, where customers could get a free meal at one of the fast-food chain’s 47 restaurants in San Jose, California.

At the time, Google said it was working on ways to speed up the identification process — namely, using in-store cameras to automatically verify users’ appearance and keeping their credit card data on file for instant transactions. While that may have been too invasive for some, Google stipulated at the time that all data kept by Hands Free terminals was sandboxed from its own servers as well as those of the merchant, and deleted immediately post-purchase.

On the Hands Free website, Google says it has “learned so much from [its] early adopters” since launching the service last spring, and invites users to “enjoy quick, easy checkout with Android Pay” as it prepares the next step.

Editors' Recommendations

Adam Ismail
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Adam’s obsession with tech began at a young age, with a Sega Dreamcast – and he’s been hooked ever since. Previously…
Why Google suddenly seems to care about tablets again
best Android tablets

Google is no stranger to the tablet game. The company has been building the hardware since the launch of the Nexus 7 in 2012, but after failing to properly compete with Apple’s iPads throughout the rest of the decade, Google allowed its tablets take the back seat to let its far more successful smartphones drive the company’s mobile tech. Now, Google is back to pushing Android tablets and seems to want to be in genuine competition with Apple in the space once again.

As of late, Android tablets are being brought to the forefront of Google’s mobile brand with the upcoming rollout of the Android 12L update. While certainly bringing plenty of new features to other mobile devices, Android 12L pays special attention to tablets by adding features that specifically take advantage of the devices’ bigger screens. 

Read more
Samsung Pay vs. Google Pay
A person used Samsung Pay when making a purchase.

In today’s internet age, making one-click, contactless payments with little to no extra charges has become commonplace. This is particularly helpful during times like these when making remote payments while isolating at home can help customers shop safely, reducing health risks.
Even outside of the pandemic, one-tap payment apps offer many conveniences and give you the ability to go cash-free so you never have to worry about forgetting your wallet again. One-tap payment apps also allow you to make purchases via different payment options including credit cards, vouchers, bank transfers, and more features cash can’t offer. 
Currently, Samsung Pay and Google Pay are two of the most popular contactless payment apps in the market. While both of them offer similar core features, they differ slightly in their integration, cross-country availability and extra features offered. Let’s explore them below. 
Device integration

One of the biggest differences between Samsung Pay and Google Pay is that Samsung Pay is a default app on most Samsung devices but doesn’t work on other Android models. Google Pay, on the other hand, is available for most Android and even iOS devices. However, Google Pay for iOS is not that common as most Apple users use Apply Pay. 
If you want a flexible one-tap payment app that you can use on multiple devices, go for Google Pay. 
Winner: Google Pay
Availability and payment options

Read more
How to use Google Maps
Google Assistant on Google Maps

Google Maps has long served as the go-to navigation tool for millions of phones, tablets, cars, and smart wearables. While everyone is probably familiar with using Google Maps to get from point A to point B, there are a multitude of multitool-like extras hiding under the hood that are worth highlighting. Over the years, Google has added features that allow you to save your favorite places, share your location with friends, and get personalized recommendations. Here is how to use Google Maps more useful but lesser-known features, like incognito mode, AR live view, sharing your location in real-time, and even finding the nearest COVID vaccination and testing site.
How to play your tunes

With all the understandable focus on driving directions and the depth of Google Maps itself, it's easy to forget Google Maps also features music controls for popular music services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play Music (Android only). Here's how to get the party started.

Read more