How Does Android Pay Stack Up Against Samsung Pay and Apple Pay?

And how is it different from Google Wallet?

Getty Images

Tap and pay apps, in which you can use your smartphone to make purchases at the store, are really starting to catch on. While Google Wallet has been around since 2011, it hasn't reached mass appeal. Google is trying to change that with Android Pay, which has started to roll out to Android smartphones after much hype. It follows Apple's launch of Apple Pay last year, which has gained wide acceptance. Coming up next is Samsung Pay, due out later this month. So how does these services compare? I'll walk you through the pros and cons of each app and show you what's in store for Google Wallet users.

First things first. Android Pay is not a direct replacement for Google Wallet. Like Google Wallet, you can store your credit or debit card in the app and then use it to pay at retail locations that use PayPass technology. However, Google Wallet required you to open the app first; with Android Pay, you simply need to unlock your smartphone, using a fingerprint reader if you prefer, and place it near the contactless terminal. You can also use it make purchases within other apps and store your loyalty cards. Google says that Android Pay is accepted at more than a million stores in the U.S. and will soon be available in thousands of apps, such as Airbnb and Lyft. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon will pre-install the app on their Android smartphones.  

So What's Up with Google Wallet?

If you're a fan, don't worry, Google Wallet will live on—just in a different capacity. Google has re-built the app, removing the contactless pay feature, and focusing on money transfers. With it, you can easily send and request money (ala PayPal). The new Google Wallet works with Android smartphones and tablets running Android 4.0 or above, and Apple devices running iOS 7.0 or above. You can download the new app or update your existing app via the Google Play Store.

Samsung Pay

In the meantime, Samsung has developed its own contactless payment app. Samsung Pay will be available on the Galaxy S6, Edge, Edge+, and Note5, and on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular carriers. (Verizon is notably missing from that list.) It works similarly to Android Pay in that you can verify your identity using a fingerprint reader, and then pay by placing your phone near the terminal. The big difference, though, is that Samsung Pay is also compatible with swipe-based credit card machines, meaning you can use it virtually anywhere that accepts credit cards. Samsung gained this functionality by acquiring LoopPay, a company that created patented technology that turns credit card swipe machines into contactless readers. For Samsung users, this is huge. 

Apple Pay

Apple Pay, which was launched in 2014, uses PayPass technology, so it has similar retail compatibility to Android Pay; it also enables you to store loyalty cards. The app is pre-installed on all the latest iPhones (iPhone 6 and newer) and compatible with the Apple Watch and newer iPads. For obvious reasons, it's not available on Android devices, just as Android Pay isn't available on iPhones.