Google’s upcoming personal assistant and cross-platform messaging apps make substantial use of payments, though the transactions exist entirely in the background to encourage a smooth user experience.
Google Home, a WiFi-connected voice-controlled assistant device similar to the Amazon Echo, is meant to be a conversational tool that remembers the user's tastes, habits — and payment credentials.
Unlike Google Home, the existing Google mobile app will respond to a query about current movies by displaying nearby showtimes and will end the engagement there.
"We want to go a step further," said Sundar Pichai, Google's CEO, during his keynote presentation at the Google I/O developers conference on May 18. "We want to understand the context and maybe suggest three relevant movies you like nearby," perhaps also limiting its suggestions to family-friendly movies if you want to bring the kids, he said.
In the demo, the Google assistant knows how big the user's family is and orders the correct number of tickets. It then provides a QR code to present to the theater. It does not ask the user for a credit card or mention the need for payment, a nod to the trend in the app economy toward placing payments in the background of a larger e-commerce consumer engagement..
The company's upcoming Allo messaging app attempts to expand upon some of the ideas implemented in the rival Facebook Messenger, which also embedding payments into various functions. Facebook's app can order an Uber ride from within the messaging app; but Google's Allo can link to other apps to make restaurant reservations or place orders.
Within an Allo conversation, the Google assistant "intelligently recognizes that [the users] can use some tips for Italian restaurants nearby… tapping this brings up restaurant cards that everyone in the chat can see," said Rebecca Michael, product marketing manager at Google. The app links to OpenTable to place the reservation, and Google plans to integrate other developers before Allo launches this summer.
Much of this is already possible in the Google app, Michael noted, but using these features during a conversation today requires switching back and forth between the Google app and the user's messaging app.
Android Pay finally came up near the end of the two-hour Google I/O opening keynote as a feature of Android Instant Apps, a lightweight version of full-featured apps that allows people to use a subset of an app's features without fully installing the app. In this way, the technology functions as a cross between an app and a mobile website, and Google suggested uses such as paying for parking through an instant parking meter app.
The user's Android Pay credentials carry over to these mini-apps, said Ellie Powers, group product manager at Google. Android Instant Apps will work on Android versions dating back to Jellybean, the version of Android released in 2012.
Though this news was not the focus of any of the opening keynote presentations, Google's mobile wallet also launched in the U.K. the same day.