When Google launched Android Pay at its I/O conference back in 2015, it also teased a program that let you keep your phone in your pocket and still go through the normal checkout process. Called Hands Free, the limited pilot used the phrase, “I’ll pay with Google,” to alert the cashier that you wouldn’t actually be using a physical form of payment.
Google has announced that it is shutting down the service on Feb. 8, which launched last spring on iOS and Android. Available only at select locations like McDonalds and Papa Johns in the Bay Area, the program required users to upload a photo in the Hands Free app and utilized Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and location services in your phone to identify when you were at one of the participating locations.
According to Google’s description of the service, “Then, if you purchase from a store that uses a Hands Free camera, Google will confirm your identity automatically by detecting specific patterns from the template created during signup. The cashier will initiate the charge and you’ll get a notification on your phone after the charge is complete.” During the transaction, the cashier would only see the user’s initials, first name, and photo, keeping payment information and credit card numbers hidden.
Contactless payments have been rapidly spreading across country, and Google’s idea with Hands Free was to “explore what the future of mobile payments could look like.” While it’s not entirely clear why Google is stopping the program, it writes on the Hands Free website that “we’re now working to bring the best of the Hands Free technology to even more people and stores.”
Did I miss something: Unfortunately, Hands Free never made it out of pilot mode and was extremely limited, so there’s a good change you’ve never used or even heard of the program. However, the concept of being able to pay quickly and securely without pulling out your phone or reaching for your wallet is certainly intriguing, and it’s likely that Google will take what it learned and apply it to Android Pay down the road, perhaps tapping Google Assistant as it works to bring the service nationwide.