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Google’s Android Pay to launch in UK to take on Apple

Google is bringing Android Pay, its contactless payment app, to the U.K. "in the next few months", the U.S. search giant said on Wednesday, putting it head-to-head with rivals Apple and Samsung.

Currently only available in the U.S., Android Pay allows users to tap their near field communication (NFC)-enabled smartphones on a reader to pay for items in store. Devices running Android 4.4 or higher will be able to use this feature.

Users will be able to use Android Pay "everywhere contactless payments are accepted", Google said, adding that the service can also be used on London's tube, bus and train services, much like rival Apple Pay.

Android Pay icon on a mobile device
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Android Pay icon on a mobile device

The service will support MasterCard and Visa credit and debit cards from banks and building societies including Bank of Scotland, First Direct, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, M&S Bank, MBNA and Nationwide Building Society. Google said more banks are being added.

In launching Android Pay in the U.K., Google is going head-to-head with rival Apple which has its own contactless payments system called Apple Pay. Google has a 52.6 percent market share with Android smartphones in the U.K., versus Apple's 38.6 percecnt with iOS, according to Kantar Worldpanel.

But Apple is not only competition for Google. Samsung is also in the space and it's offering – Samsung Pay – is also launching in the U.K. this year. While Google and Apple's solutions work via NFC, Samsung's service can use magnetic strip technology as well, meaning retailers will not have to upgrade their point-of-sales terminals.

Google said that Android Pay has been "growing steadily" in the U.S. with 1.5 million new registrations happening each month.