Android Q Beta 1 was released earlier this week and eligible Pixel smartphone users can now download and test the new OS and its features on their own devices, but that doesn't necessarily mean they should. Some features are broken while others are disabled altogether, and this is the case with NFC payments as per a PSA tweeted by Android Police's David Ruddock.
The NFC payment feature in Android Q is not bugged or broken, but instead, it has been disabled in Beta 1 because the firmware doesn't yet comply to TrustZone security standards. This is a hardware security feature baked into ARM-powered chipsets such as the Qualcomm Snapdragon solutions employed by the Google Pixel smartphones.
TrustZone works in conjunction with the Trusty secure OS which provides a TEE (Trusted Execution Environment) for Google's mobile OS. Trusty OS works in parallel with Android OS and it's isolated from applications installed by the user through the Android user interface.
NFC payments have been disabled before with prior Android OS beta builds so the current situation is not a result of Google's efforts to improve privacy in Android Q. But the tech giant does want to offer better privacy with the upcoming mobile OS version through other means. This includes giving users control over their data and new runtime permissions, as well as offering more options as to how Location services should work in the background. The new OS version is also able to randomize MAC addresses for devices whenever they join a new Wi-Fi network.
When Can NFC Payments Be Expected To Return?
Google's upcoming mobile OS version is expected to arrive in at least three additional Beta stages before it will be ready for mass deployment in the third quarter of the year. Android Q Beta 1 was released this week and it will be followed by Beta 2, Beta 3, and Beta 4 in April, May, and June, respectively.
The future beta builds should eventually lead to a couple of Android Q release candidates which will be distributed to eligible testers in the form of Beta 5 and Beta 6 builds.
Until Android Q will be able to work in parallel with Trusty OS and meet the TrustZone standards, users will be prevented from performing NFC-based payments on devices running these early builds. This security measure should be lifted by the time the new Android OS version will be ready for public release in Q3 2019, but it remains to be seen if support for NFC payments will be reinstated earlier than that with the rollout of the Beta 5 or Beta 6 release candidates.
This year Google's Android beta program is expected to include more smartphones than ever before, with other OEMs said to participate in the early stages of development at a later date. Regardless of brand, every smartphone model running a beta Android Q build is expected to suffer from the same limitations pertaining to contactless payments.
Most Android Q early adopters won't be affected by these limitations but as of this writing, smartphone users who rely on their mobile devices for NFC-based payments should probably steer clear of Google's Android beta builds until further notice.