Pocket-lint is supported by its readers. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

(Pocket-lint) - Google has a new payment app that's separate from Android Pay.

Android Pay debuted in May 2015 and began rolling out in the US roughly four months later. It is now averaging 1.5 million new registrations each month. Despite the success of that initiative, Google is keen to explore alternative mobile payment solutions. Enter Hands Free.

It is the company's new pilot app, and it currently the early stages of testing. The idea behind Hands Free is that you can use it to pay in stores - completely hands-free. Google is inviting people in South Bay to test Hands Free, a new app now available for Android and iOS devices.

At the moment it only works with a small number of local eateries, including McDonald’s and Papa John’s. If you'd like to know more, we've detailed everything you need to know, including how it lets you to ditch your phone while still being able to identify you to process payments.

Google Hands Free: What is Hands Free?

Hands Free is a new Google app that allows you to check-out in stores without needing to grab your phone or wallet.

You can download the free app from Google Play or the App Store. Keep in mind Google only recently kicked off a limited public pilot. Also, at launch, Google is offering up to $5 off your first purchase at participating stores.

Google Hands Free: How does Hands Free work?

  • Download the Hands Free app to your Android device or iPhone
  • Enable Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and location services on your device

According to Google, Hands Free uses Bluetooth low energy, Wi-Fi, location services, and other sensors in your phone to detect whether you are near a participating store. When you are ready to checkout, all you must do is tell the cashier “I'll pay with Google”. The cashier will then confirm your identity using your initials and the photo you've added to your Hands Free profile.

The cashier will only charge you when Hands Free detects your phone is near the store - and only after verifying your identity to ensure they are charging the right person. You'll also get notifications after every purchase and be alerted of any unusual activity. You can therefore pay hands-free, without having to grab your phone or even launch the Hands Free app.

Google Hands Free: What about visual identification?

Google is also using visual identification in select stores, but these are early experiments. With this setup, an in-store camera automatically confirms your identity based on your Hands Free profile picture. All images and data from the Hands Free in-store camera will be deleted immediately after, can't be accessed by the store, and is not sent to or saved to Google servers.

Google Hands Free: Is Hands Free secure?

Theoretically, yes.

Google outlined the following ways Hands Free keeps your data safe:

  • Hands Free doesn't share your full credit card number with the store
  • Hands Free only shares your payment details with the payment processor
  • All your payment details are stored securely
  • Suspicious transactions won't go through without your approval

Google Hands Free: How is this different from Android Pay?

Android Pay is a mobile wallet that stores your credit cards, debit cards, loyalty cards, etc. If that sounds like Google Wallet, it's because Android Pay is the new Google Wallet (only it's supposed to be better, more convenient, and secure).

Hands Free is a system that lets you check-out at physical stores without needing to grab your phone or open an app, like Android Pay. Google said the products are separate and hasn't specified whether they'll be combined.

How to downgrade iOS and keep your data

READ: Android Pay explained: How does it work and where is it available?

Google Hands Free: Which phones support Hands Free?

Android devices (Jelly Bean v4.2+) and iPhones (4S+) support Hands Free.

Google Hands Free: Where can you use Hands Free?

Hands Free - as of March 2016 - works with select stores in San Francisco's South Bay (including McDonald's, Papa John's, and local businesses).

You can find the full list of stores in the Hands Free app.

Google Hands Free: Want to know more?

Read Google's blog post or Hands Free website for more details.

Writing by Elyse Betters. Originally published on 2 March 2016.