Google has confirmed that it plans to shut down its Hands Free app on February 8. Google has been emailing those who were either signed up or showed interest in the Hands Free program to confirm the shutdown of the app. Likewise, the website for the service is also now echoing the same shutdown confirmation. Google has not really provided any firm information as to why the app and service is ending, although as this was just a pilot program, maybe it has simply ran out of legs. Especially considering the program was only actually available to those based in San Francisco. Interestingly, the announcement from Google does note that although they are closing down the app, they are "working to bring the best of the Hands Free technology to even more people and stores" and that the app closure is part of the 'refocusing of their efforts'. So there could be the possibility that in spite of the closure of the app, the feature or service is not quite finished with just yet. Although, there are no firm details being provided on this at the moment.
If you are new to Hands Free then the general premise was to be able to pay for items using your smartphone, but without actually using or touching the smartphone. Instead the smartphone just simply needed to be near to you, hence the 'hands free' naming of the service. Hands Free was able to achieve this by employing the use of Bluetooth low energy, Wi-Fi and location services to find a nearby Hands Free terminal and conduct the transaction. The idea being that as you reach a terminal, you tell the cashier you want to 'pay with Google', they ask for your initials and the cashier inputs those initials into the compatible terminal – essentially acting as the passcode for the transaction.
The trial program was launched back in March of 2016 following an initial preview all the way back in May of the year before during Google I/O 2015. However, the service was only available to users in a select part of San Francisco and could only be used at a select number of retailers. Since then there has not been much information coming through on the widening of the availability and therefore, it will probably not come as much of a surprise that the app is closing down.