Google's Android Pay mobile payment system arrives in U.S.

Google's Android Pay.

James Martin/CNET

For Google, the second crack at mobile payments could be the charm.

The search giant's latest attempt to spur people into paying for items using their smartphone began rolling out on Thursday, the company said in a statement. Google struck agreements to get the service into more than 1 million retail locations in the U.S., through retailers including Macy's, Whole Foods and Walgreens.

Google said the service, first announced in May, will also store gift cards and loyalty cards on phones powered by its Android software. It will support credit and debit cards from the four major payment networks: American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa. Later this year the service will work with mobile apps as well, Google added.

This isn't Google's first ride at the mobile payments rodeo. Four years ago, it made a foray into credit cards and payments using a service called Google Wallet. But that was a struggle from the get-go; few retailers supported it, a couple of wireless phone service providers disabled it, and it didn't always work. Google on Thursday also announced a new version of Wallet, which will focus only on sending and receiving money through Android phones.

Competition in the space has been heating up since Apple announced its own service, Apple Pay, last year, offering it to anyone using a year-old or newer iPhone or the Apple Watch. About 72 hours after its October debut, over 1 million credit cards had been activated on Apple Pay, more than any similar service combined, the company said.

The success of Apple Pay has now attracted many other tech companies to offer their own flavor of the technology. Samsung in March announced its own service, called Samsung Pay, for its Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge smartphones. Also, Google in February acquired some of the technology behind Softcard, a payments system backed by several US telecommunications firms. PayPal, too, is working to improve its mobile services.

If Android Pay succeeds, it could help mobile payments take off and keep Google relevant in that burgeoning market. Smartphone payments at retailers are expected to surge to $118 billion by 2018, according to eMarketer. That's up more than 3,000 percent from the $3.5 billion tallied last year.

Like other payment services, Google said isn't transmitting consumers' credit or debit card number when making transactions. Instead, it sends a computer-generated account number as a stand-in. The service will be available on phones with specialized payments chips and powered by software made in the last two years.

This article originally appeared on CNET.