"We would prefer to start using the chip that comes with the phone," says CommBank's head of online banking, but "currently the NFC chip (the secure element) in Android NFC-enabled phones is not available to us."
Commonwealth Bank of Australia has added support for Android devices to its Kaching mobile payments service, which it is running independently of a mobile network operator.
Unlike the existing version of Kaching, which runs on Apple's iPhone and uses an NFC case to add point-of-sale payments capabilities, the new Android version of Kaching does not support NFC — despite the fact that many Android phones are now shipping with embedded secure elements.
"Through CommBank Kaching Android users will be able to make peer-to-peer payments using a person's mobile phone or email address," says the bank. "Additionally, they will also be able to utilise world-first social network functionality, making payments to their Facebook friends.
"Functionality such as near field communication payments and Bump will be made available once the respective handset and software vendors make that functionality available to the market."
Drew Unsworth, Commbank's general manager for online banking, provides more details about the bank's reasons for the lack of NFC in the new Android service in a blog post:
The first thing I have to call out is that it does not have the iCarte to let you shop with your debit or credit card. The reason for this is we would prefer to start using the chip that comes with the phone, rather than have our customers buy a cover. This is a real priority for us. Currently the NFC chip (the secure element) in Android NFC-enabled phones is not available to us. Third parties are responsible for this and as soon as it becomes available we'll look to introduce new NFC features to our customers.
In an interview with ZDNet Australia in May, chief marketing officer Andy Lark put the blame for the delay onto Google.
The iPhone version of Kaching has been downloaded 365,000 times and A$1bn (US$1.03bn) in money transfers have been performed via the app since its launch in October 2011, Commbank reports. Currently, Commbank's main mobile banking app is logged into by customers with Android phones more than one million times a week.