Google today launched a new mobile payment app in India that allows users to connect their bank accounts directly to the service and employs ultrasound technology in lieu of an NFC chip to transfer money between devices.
Called Tez (Hindi for "fast"), Google's new payment platform links customers' bank accounts to Android and iOS via the Unified Payment Interface (UPI), a state-backed payments system. Google has partnered with State Bank of India, the country's biggest lender, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, and Axis Bank, with 55 banks in total said to be supporting the service across India.
Tez uses a technology called audio QR that allows mobile users to transfer cash between devices using an inaudible ultrasonic frequency to identify the payer and payee. The system works with any mobile device with a mic and speaker and the Tez app installed, and therefore doesn't require an NFC chip.
India is home to 300 million smartphone users, but most handsets in the country don't feature NFC, so Google's audio QR solution is being marketed as a secure mainstream alternative. Apart from typical mobile transactions to pay for everyday items, Google says small businesses can also use the app to accept payments into their bank accounts, with payments from mobile merchants supported, too.
According to Bloomberg, digital transactions have surged after the Indian Government banned high-value cash notes in 2016. Tez is available on both Android and iOS, and Google plans to release the app in other emerging countries including Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand. Apple has yet to launch Apple Pay in any of the aforementioned countries and is still negotiating with the Indian government about bringing its own mobile payment system to the country. Apple Pay Cash, Apple's peer-to-peer mobile payment feature, is set to launch in the U.S. with the official release iOS 11 this month.