MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—Cash is still king, Android Pay boss Sridhar Ramaswamy admitted at Google's I/O developer conference here yesterday.
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"People are scared to leave cash behind," he said, before turning to an engineer who promptly demoed a handful of new Android Pay features—a sign that Google still hopes its contactless payment tech will knock cash's crown to the ground.
The most intriguing was an integration with London's public transit system, which allows Android Pay users to replace their Oyster Cards with smartphones, tapping in and out of Tube faregates without launching an app. Android Pay will display a map of the journey and even alert you if you forgot to tap out, thus avoiding the penalty maximum fare.
Android Pay only launched in the UK yesterday morning, so it's far behind its rival Apple Pay, which has been in use on London public transit since last year, even offering free rides in partnership with MasterCard. But the seamless tap-in process demonstrated at I/O, complete with an actual Tube faregate (below), is a stark contrast to the less-than-perfect experience of using Apple Pay on the London Underground.
Here in the US, Google beats Apple by introducing the availability of Android Pay-equipped ATMs, something Apple was rumored to be exploring in January. Starting today, Bank of America customers can use their phones to withdraw cash at 650 locations in the San Francisco Bay Area.
A Bank of America rep was on hand with an actual ATM to demo the process, which is nearly identical to tapping the London faregate, though you do still have to type in your PIN. The rep said more than 5,000 ATMs nationwide will be compatible by the end of 2016.
Ramaswamy also announced a few other Android App improvements, which include the ability for all developers to integrate the payment option into their apps and websites, something that was previously limited to hand-picked Google partners.
The ATM and Tube demos are welcome developments for those already using Android Pay, but Ramaswamy was silent on whether or not he thinks they'll help attract new users. And it's hard to ignore the simple fact that neither will actually reduce the dominance of cold, hard cash: Android Pay on the Tube replaces Oyster Cards, not cash, and its presence at ATMs simply makes it easier for people to withdraw those essential greenbacks.