Millions more people will be able to pay through their smartphones in the latest attempt by Google to persuade British shoppers to swap real for digital wallets.
Much of the UK has been slow to adopt digital payments, partly because it requires an expensive smartphone with fingerprint recognition and special chips.
Google hopes to make smartphone payments more popular by allowing most Android phones in the UK to use its pay platform. The UK is the first country outside the US to have Android Pay, which was launched last year.
From Wednesday, Android smartphone users can walk into a Starbucks and pay for coffee with a tap of their phone, or into Waitrose to pick up their weekly shop.
Many other retailers, including Pret A Manger and Boots, will also support the system, as will Transport for London, to pay for travel on the Tube, bus and train.
Smartphone users will be able to make transactions up to £30 without unlocking their phone, while transactions of more than £30 will need to be approved using a pin, pattern or fingerprint.
Apple launched a payment service last year but it can only be used with one of the more recent iPhones because of the need for a fingerprint sensor and contactless capability.
There are about 25m-30m active phones in the UK that can use Google’s payment system, according to analysts at IHS, a considerably larger base of customers.
“By supporting passcode and pattern support rather than just fingerprints as a means of verifying payments, Google has ensured that Android Pay will be able to work on the majority of UK Android smartphones, rather than the limited number of recent flagships that have fingerprint sensors,” said Jack Kent, analyst at IHS.
He added that Google was also looking to promote sales through apps, which could encourage Android Pay adoption. The system could make it quicker to use apps such as those from JD Sports, Deliveroo and YPlan.
To encourage take-up, Google will be launching special offers each month. Starbucks and Deliveroo will be the first to offer discounts in the UK.
Jeremy Light, managing director of Accenture Payment Services, said: “The number of contactless card payments is set to surpass 3bn in the UK this year. But with mobile payment now available to more customers than ever, we can expect to see contactless payments shift from cards to smartphones.”
Some experts are still sceptical about how quickly the smartphone will replace cash.
Mr Light said: “Cash remains king among UK consumers with more than half of transactions relying on coins or notes. Therefore while the trend towards contactless transactions gains momentum, we’re experiencing more of an evolution rather than a revolution.”
Smartphone users need to download the Android Pay app and have an eligible MasterCard or Visa credit or debit card from Bank of Scotland, First Direct, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, M&S Bank, MBNA and Nationwide Building Society. More banks will be added later this year.