Thanks to Apple, Google, and Samsung all pushing their own systems, mobile payment is getting a big boost and could see a substantial increase in adoption. However, there might be a subset of smartphone users, particularly those on Android, who will be left out on all the fun. Responding to a thread over at XDA Forums, a junior member who identifies himself as a Google Security Engineer confirms something that power users don’t want but probably already expected to hear: Android Pay will not work on rooted devices or those running custom ROMs.
The reason for this is somewhat simple but, as even the Google engineer admits, less than ideal. Platforms like Android and iOS limit what users and third-parties can do on the device for the sake of security, unlike on a desktop system where you have near limitless authority, especially if you have admin privileges. Gaining such privileges on mobile platforms isn’t impossible but isn’t authorized as well. Rooting, or jailbreaking for iOS users, basically bypasses security checks and measures in exchange for almost complete control over a device. This has advantages as well as disadvantages, as malware for rooted or jailbroken devices have proven.
Considering that mobile payment systems like Android Pay need to operate in a watertight environment, it can be clear why rooted devices can become liabilities. Banks and payment networks trust Google and Google needs to be able to trust the software running on a device. It would be a logistics nightmare to account for each and every single custom Android ROM, much less rooted devices. Google can therefore only trust official firmware coming from its certified partners and distributors.
The engineer admits that they are wary of alienating power users, who can admittedly be very vocal. But as it stands, Google doesn’t have any acceptable compromise in the foreseeable future. If it’s any comfort, Samsung Pay also won’t work on rooted devices and it is most likely that neither will Apple Pay on jailbroken ones.