Saturday, 2 June 2018

Even without an Internet connection on the phone

Now here's an interesting thing. I thought that it would be essential to have an Internet connection on the phone when paying for something with it, specifically using Google Pay. It seems not so.

Three hours ago I paid for afternoon tea and cake way up Weardale, in the High Pennines, where - believe me - the Vodafone machete has not yet slashed a way through. I was at the Killhope Lead Mining Museum Café. The location was south-east of Alston, on the A689, deep in the upper Wear valley. Although the museum and its outdoor and underground exhibits might well have been fascinating, I wasn't there to look at them (why not is for another post): I was there simply for refreshment.

The pot of tea and slice of cake I asked for came to £3.00. That was pretty reasonable, bearing in mind what one might easily pay elsewhere; and in the old days I would have paid for it in cash without a thought. But now I make a point to pay cashlessly (and contactlessly) whenever I can.

Although it was such a small amount, the girl didn't seem to mind. She set up the payment terminal for a contactless payment, and it was at this point I noticed that my phone had no Internet connection at all. Still, I decided to go ahead, and see what might happen. If the process failed, then I had a fiver ready.

To my great surprise, the phone went DING! - meaning that the Google Pay app had done its stuff. And the girl confirmed that an authorised payment had gone through. I was amazed. How could that be possible, if my phone wasn't connected to the internet?

I mulled it over. The Café's payment terminal would have a wired Internet connection with the outside world - down the Museum's landline. That must be half the answer. I supposed that activating the NFC between terminal and phone informed Visa that a contactless payment via Google Pay was going to be made, and a rapid sequence of electronic checks had then been carried out, leading to a successful transaction. The Google Pay app on my phone would then go DING! The arrival of my electronic receipt needed an Internet connection to the phone, which wasn't immediately available. But it did come once I had driven into an area where there was a signal. And I had my receipt by the time I got back to the caravan.

So this must all mean that provided the retailer (or service provider) has a working Internet connection of their own, it doesn't matter that my phone is without one.

That's something learned. Presumably Google Pay will work with a contactless terminal on a train, underground, in the air, or on a ship, provided that the terminal is online in some form or other. NFC works anywhere, of course.

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