With the launch of "KitKat," the newest version of Google's Android mobile operating system, Android smartphones get Near Field Communication (NFC) capabilities that may break down many of the barriers to hardware-based mobile payments.

KitKat adds Host Card Emulation, which allows any app to emulate NFC technology for contactless payments, loyalty and transit passes, according to Google. The system works without a provisioned secure element – potentially sidestepping a main point of conflict between Google and carriers such as Verizon Wireless, which has long blocked Google Wallet's NFC payment capabilities on its phones.

With a new reader mode, apps will also be able to receive NFC-based transactions.

Most major carriers have refused to support the NFC functions of Google Wallet, with Sprint being the most prominent exception. AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile have created the Isis mobile wallet, which runs on an assortment of NFC-equipped phones.

NFC has been a very limited technology, especially in the U.S. Google Wallet started off solely supporting NFC, but has since changed to a more technology-agnostic strategy that includes online and mobile commerce payments. The latest version of Google Wallet spotlights person-to-person payments.  

The updated KitKat is first available on the new LG Nexus 5 phones, with upgrades to other devices rolling out in the “coming weeks,” according to an Engadget report

Google would like to see the operating system become pervasive on all Android phones next year, Engadget reports.

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