Google will stop allowing users with non-KitKat devices to use the Google Wallet Tap & Pay capability after April 14th. Folks with Android smartphones and tablets with older version of the platform will still be able to store loyalty cards and offers, send money to friends, view orders, and use the physical Google Wallet card to make purchases; but for Tap & Pay – they’ll have to upgrade. As in wait for their handset maker and/or carrier to launch the latest software version.
Here’s a snippet from the email Google sent to one Google Wallet user:
We wanted to let you know about an update to Google Wallet that might change the way you use the app. Right now it looks like you’re using tap and pay with a device running an Android version older than 4.4 KitKat. On the newest version of Android, tap and pay works with different technology for an improved experience. As a result, starting on A?p?r?i?l 1?4, 2?0?1?4, tap and pay will no longer work for devices with older Android versions.
Tap and pay will be available for most devices running Android 4.4 KitKat. If you are able to upgrade to KitKat now, you can check if your device supports tap and pay. Supported devices will display a tile in your “My Wallet” screen that tells you to set up tap and pay. For devices that are not eligible for Android 4.4 KitKat or don’t support tap and pay, you can still use the Google Wallet app to store all of your loyalty cards and offers, send money to your friends, view your orders, and use the Google Wallet Card to make purchases.
The main argument is about security, with Android 4.4 KitKat including the Host Card Emulation (HCE) feature that allows users to make secure-NFC purchases without needing a Secure Element.
And while we can understand Google for taking extra care about security, the news still comes as a downer considering that KitKat is running on just 2.5% of Android phones (and tablets). Perhaps this will push vendors and carriers into launching firmware updates faster. We’ll see…