Google may be making smartwatch payments way less convenient — what we know

Google Pixel Watch 2
(Image credit: Google)

Paying for stuff with your Wear OS smartwatch might be about to get a lot more annoying. Google Wallet, which has been going through some changes, could soon ask users to verify transactions with a PIN every time they try to make a tap-to-pay transaction.

Recently Wallet added extra verification to transit payments, which was designed to make the process more secure without sacrificing any convenience in the process. Unfortunately Google Wallet then decided it was going to reset the verification clock every 3 minutes, regardless of what your phone is doing. Now it looks like this same annoying system could come to Wear OS as well.

Previously Wear OS smartwatches needed to have a PIN setup to use Google Wallet, and required re-authentication every time someone took the watch off. Now some Reddit users are reporting that they have to authorize every single transaction they make with their watch.

The original user to report this claims to be from Asia, while there have also been comments from users in Europe and the U.S. Though some insist that this method of verification has been in place for years, plenty of others are adamant the verify-every-time system is brand new. 

Android Police has speculated that this could be a bug, thanks to Google globally implementing verification rules that require near-constant verification on all transactions. The relevant support page makes no mention of smartwatch transactions, and instead focuses on making payments with your phone. 

While this verify-every-time system has been the norm in the U.S. on non-transit payments for years, places like Europe are a little laxer with contactless security. Typically you can make small transactions without verification, though the total amount varies by country. In the U.K. it’s £100, while Germany limits you to €50 per transaction and Belgium’s limit is just €25. 

So being forced to verify payments every time, even on smaller transactions below the legal contactless limit, is going to make the process slightly more annoying if you’re not used to it. Then again, anyone using Apple Pay has had to do it this way for several years already. The problem is that smartwatches are supposed to make contactless transactions easier. No pulling out wallets or phones, just tap your watch to the reader. 

So adding extra verification steps is only going to make that process more convoluted. So here’s hoping it’s a bug, and Wear OS can go back to the old system that lets people tap without having to type a PIN number into a tiny screen.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.