Vodafone's mobile payment app to scrap top-ups with a new SIM

If you want to make contactless mobile payments in the UK, your options are pretty limited. Apple Pay is only available in the US (for now) and Google Wallet is bound to Gmail transactions and Google Play purchases in Britain. Spotting the opportunity to take an early lead, Vodafone is readying a new Visa-powered alternative. The company already offers an app called "Vodafone Wallet," but it relies on the user managing a separate SmartPass account. To pay with your phone, you first have to shuffle money across from your bank account to Vodafone's virtual piggy bank. It's a huge pain, so the network is prepping an updated app that allows customers to store their card details directly on the phone.

When it goes live in the second quarter of 2015, you'll still have to jump through some hoops, however. For instance, the new service will only be available for NFC-enabled Android devices, and you'll need a special Vodafone NFC SIM to store your card details securely. Card ownership will be authenticated using the "Verified by Visa" system and a four-digit PIN will be required for higher value payments. Security should always be a top priority, but we can't help but long for the simplicity of Google Wallet and Apple Pay.