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Google's Android Pay coming to UK in 'next few months'

Google breaks the silence on when its smartphone payments service will come to the UK, although the precise date is still a mystery.

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Android Pay will give Google-powered phones the same payment abilities the iPhone has had for the past year and a half in the UK.

James Martin / CNET

Google has finally shed some light on when Android Pay will arrive in the UK, after launching the service six months ago in the US.

The mobile payments service, which already has several major British banking partners on board, will be available in "the next few months," Google said in a blog post Wednesday.

Android Pay will support MasterCard and Visa debit and credit cards from the Bank of Scotland, First Direct, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, M&S Bank, MBNA and Nationwide Building Society. There are some notable omissions, including the likes of Barclays, RBS and Natwest, but new banks are being added "all the time," according to Google.

Google brought Android Pay to the US in September and says it is now signing up 1.5 million new customers per month. The company has been tight-lipped up to now about when the service would launch in the UK, likely because it was busy securing partnerships with regional financial institutions. Having British banks on board will be critical if the service is to succeed.

Android Pay is Google's second attempt at introducing mobile payments to its customers. Google Wallet, its prior effort that started in 2011, was supported by few retailers and proved unreliable. But mobile and contactless payments are increasingly common and are now widely supported. All this makes 2016 a better, if more competitive, time to persuade customers that they should adopt the technology.

Google has been slow off the mark, however. Many iPhone users are already familiar with the concept of paying with their smartphone. Apple Pay, the equivalent service from Apple, has been available in the UK for around a year and a half.

Samsung smartphone users may already be used to paying with their Android devices, as the manufacturer launched its own payments service in the UK this year. They will soon be able to choose between using Samsung Pay and Android Pay. Samsung Pay's magnetic strip technology means the manufacturer's service is compatible with more terminals than Android Pay, giving it a slight edge.

Google also announced a number of retail partners for the launch of Android Pay, including British favourites such as Boots, Greggs, Waitrose and Transport for London. In reality, once you sign up with Android Pay, you'll be able to use your phone to pay anywhere that you could otherwise pay with a contactless card.