iOS

Mobile payments in the real world: Apple Pay

This is the third installment in out series of editorials looking at mobile payments. First, we took a look at Android Pay, followed by Samsung Pay. In the latest of our series focusing on mobile payments, we have finally come to arguably the reason why I’m writing this series of articles in the first place – Apple Pay. Apple Pay is not the newest competitor to come to our series – Samsung Pay owns that honor. But Apple Pay is a new kid on the block compared to the Android Pay/Google Wallet consortium that we looked at first. Yes that is an oversimplification of the Android Pay history, but we’re going to move on from that.

apple-money

Apple Pay was introduced along with the iPhone 6 in September of last year. Suddenly, everyone wanted to make mobile payments. Arguably, Apple helps legitimize this industry, or at the very least gave it a healthy upgrade in mind share. NFC terminals started becoming more apparent and available, especially to those of us who had already been using them with Google Wallet.

apple_pay_add_cardJust like the others

Apple Pay does hold some advantages and disadvantages over its competitors. Adding a credit card is simple. Like the others, you basically just take a picture of your credit card. The security is similar in that it uses a secure element to encrypt and store the data and conducts transactions via tokenization. Unlike Google, this secure element is hardware based, not in the cloud.

Also, making a purchase with Apple pay is as simple as tapping your phone on the NFC terminal and scanning your fingerprint. As long as the retailer supports that type of payment – cough, cough, CVS, cough – it should go through, easy peasy. Apple Pay does have a few traits that make it unique from its close cousins.

Apple watch action

First, and probably foremost – if you have an Apple watch, you have Apple Pay. Apple Pay is the only payment system that resides on a smartwatch. Of course, you have to be a smartwatch fan to care about that, so maybe to some, this is a non-factor. But, if paying for something with your phone is cool, paying for something with your watch is insanely cool.

Apple also offers the added benefit of being compatible within apps. If an app is compatible with Apple Pay, you can use it to make purchases. Having your credit card stored in one location makes it a lot easier and a lot more secure than if you have several different apps all storing those credentials. Sure, on the face of it, buying your soup from your local Panera with Apple Pay seems gimmicky, but there is a solid use case in this area.

apple_pay_paneraIt’s complicated

One downside that Apple Pay brings is one of unnecessary complexity. Adding rewards cards to Android Pay is as simple as adding credit cards – scan it with your phone. Apple Pay recently added rewards cards to Apple Pay by way of its Wallet app, formerly known as Passbook. With Wallet, you can input a number of “passes” which can be anything from rewards cards to gift cards. These passes come up automatically is you’re at the appropriate location. Adding those passes though is not as straightforward.

For example, in order to add my Walgreens Balance Rewards card, I needed to actually download the Walgreens App. LOLWUT? Why I should have to download an app I don’t necessarily want just to use a cheesy rewards card is beyond me. Further my way-too-often-used Qdoba rewards card and PepBoys couldn’t be added at all. I take that back – PepBoys might have been possible to add, but when I downloaded the app, I was confronted by a requirement to set up an account. Normally, I don’t care, but for as often as I go to PepBoys, no thanks.

Overall, Apple Pay is pretty cool to use. It has neither the “wow” factor of paying at a non-NFC credit card terminal that Samsung Pay has, nor the simplicity of Android Pay. But it does have the mind share, and at the moment, that’s just as important as the other two. Apple Pay also brings much-needed functionality – NFC – to a platform that had long shunned that concept. Plus, it’s backed by a company that controls both the hardware and the software end of its products. The trump card might be smartwatch support, but I suspect it’s only a matter of time before Samsung and Android Wear get on board that train.

What about you?

In the meantime, that wraps up our coverage of mobile payment systems, and using them in the field. Have you adopted the mobile payment lifestyle? Which do you use? Sound off below and let us know where you stand in the world of mobile payments.

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About The Author
Adam Doud
Adam joined the tech world after watching Jon Rubenstein demo the most epic phone ever at CES 2009. He is webOS enthusiast, Windows Phone fan, and Android skeptic. He loves the outdoors, is an avid Geocacher, Cubs/Blackhawks fan, and family man living in Sweet Home Chicago, where he STILL hosts monthly webOS meetups (Don’t call it a comeback!). He can be found tweeting all things tech as @DeadTechnology, or chi-town sports at @oneminutecubs. Read more about Adam Doud!