Tag Archives: Apple Pay

Mobile Payment Options

By Tracey Dowdy

Despite the fact that virtual wallets have been around for a while, we’ve been slow to jump onboard. In fact, according to a study by the Federal Reserve, only 13 percent of consumers use their mobile devices to pay at restaurants or retailers. Why is that? About half of us trust our phones for mobile banking, so why have we been hesitant to take advantage of a mobile wallet?

On the plus side, it’s a simple process. You download an app, enter your credit card information, and when you’re ready to make a purchase, simply open the app and have the cashier scan your device or tap it on the pad.

Experts say mobile payments are safer than a magnetic strip debit or credit card, which holds your name, card number and expiration date encoded on the stripe without protection. Most apps generate a unique bar code for each transaction instead of transmitting your card information, and going one step further, Apple Pay doesn’t even store credit card data. New, more secure debit and credit cards are set to launch in October, but until then virtual wallets seem to be a safer option.

On the downside, you can’t use mobile payment options everywhere. Despite developers best efforts, not every retailer and restaurant can or will accept mobile payments. Of all the options, Google Wallet and Apple Pay are the most widely accepted, but with retailers like Target and Wal-Mart launching their own versions, it appears no one system will be universal.

Here’s a look at some of the major players so you can decide if mobile payments are right for you.

Apple Pay

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus come with an NFC (Near Field Communication) chip embedded in the top of the device as well as an SE (Secure Element) chip that generates a one-use code (a token) for every transaction instead of transmitting your debit or credit card number. The token can’t be used again for subsequent purchases and is only matched to your card by the bank. The iPad Mini and iPad Air 2 also come with Apple Pay but don’t have NFC, so you’ll only be able to use them for in-app purchases.

iPhone 5 and older users will need an Apple Watch to use Apple Pay, since the watch is tethered to the phone and will use your Touch ID to make purchases. The app works in Airplane mode, uses a fingerprint reader for added security and is supported by roughly 300 banks in the U.S. The Apple Pay website reminds us that Apple never sees details of your purchases and provides a complete list of participating banks both in the U.S. and U.K.

Google Wallet

The second major player is Google Wallet, which in theory is similar to Apple Pay but in practice quite different. Using NFC technology, Google Wallet creates a MasterCard number unique to your phone. There’s no credit check and you won’t receive a physical card, only a number. When you pay, the retailer gets that number and the debit or credit card you’ve attached to the account is charged. However, unlike Apple Pay, Google Wallet sees every purchase you make. It also works as a peer-to-peer payment system, allowing you to transfer money to another account.

PayPal

Your favorite one-click, online payment service is also getting into the mobile wallet game. The newest version has customers “check-in” when they enter a store that accepts PayPal payments, which then transmits your account details to the retailer. Cashing out is then as simple as telling the cashier you want to use PayPal. The store simply matches your account to your purchase. As an added plus, the app is available on Android, Apple and Windows Phones.

Android Pay

Google recently announced it will launch Android Pay as a second way to pay with your phone. Instead of opening an app, Android Pay will come with the phone, so payment is as simple as unlocking your phone and holding it near the terminal to complete your purchase; it’s as simple as tap and pay. If the store has a loyalty card, Android Pay will prompt you to use it.

According to Google, Android Pay is more secure as it doesn’t include your actual credit or debit card number with your payment but instead generates a virtual account number, thereby keeping your personal details safe. Android Pay will also make use of the native fingerprint recognition software coming in Android M (the next mobile operating system update), though it should work with NFC-equipped devices with Android 4.3 and above. Once launched, Android Pay will be for tap and pay, and Google Wallet will primarily be for peer-to-peer money transfers.

To paraphrase a quote loosely attributed to Mark Twain: If you don’t like the mobile payment options out there now, just wait six months. Retailers, developers and other major players are constantly working to improve the tools and draw you in. Mobile payment technology is certain to become more user friendly and secure as more consumers get onboard.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Apple Pay Hits Some Snags

By Paul O’Reilly

When Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, unveiled Apple Pay amid huge fanfare back on September 9, it was hailed by many observers as a watershed moment for mobile payments: an app that would finally convince a skeptical public that using a smartphone to pay for everyday goods and services was simple, efficient and, above all, secure.

And despite some early hiccups, most notably with Bank of America, the rollout of Apple Pay has gone relatively smoothly, until now that is. This week, two of the nation’s largest drug stores, Rite Aid and CVS, pulled the plug on Apple Pay and joined other high-profile retailers, including Walmart, Target and Best Buy, in de facto announcing that they wouldn’t support Apple’s payments initiative.

To be fair, the retailers, which are part of a group called Merchant Customer Exchange or MCX, did not directly announce a boycott of Apple Pay. Instead they disabled the Near Field Communications (NFC) sensors at their checkout stations, which the Apple Pay software on an iPhone 6 relies on to be able to communicate with the cash register.

Apparently, MCX is supporting its own mobile payments system, known as CurrentC, which is not expected to be available until 2015. It appears that MCX members didn’t want Apple Pay to establish too large a footprint in the mobile payments marketplace before CurrentC had a chance to compete.

(Interestingly, CVS has been accepting Softcard (formerly Isis) payments at its registers for more than a year now. Softcard, a mobile payments app that can be downloaded on certain Android devices, uses the same NFC technology utilized by Apple Pay. It seems that MCX members were content to accept Softcard payments as the volumes were very low. Once Apple joined the fray, the stakes became much higher.)

The fact that MCX retailers are rebelling against Apple Pay is not surprising. A non-cash transaction at any store has to satisfy three different parties with three different priorities: the customer, who wants a simple, quick and safe payment method; the retailer, who wants the same as the consumer but who also wants to be able to collect data on buying habits and more; and finally, the financial institution that stands behind the transaction and wants to make sure it gets its cut.

As is usually the case with Apple (see music, books, apps and more), it has developed a potentially revolutionary system that conveniences the consumer but doesn’t do quite so much for the other parties to the transaction. In particular, it’s hard to see how the stores benefit from Apple Pay. One of the big selling points for the consumer – the lack of any traceable data – is actually a big problem for the stores, denying them the opportunity to track the buying habits of their customers and institute loyalty programs and other incentives.

But perhaps the biggest problem for the retailers is that it locks them into the same old fee-paying relationship with the banks. In an industry where margins are often razor thin, retailers have long objected to the 3 – 5 percent that they have to shell out for credit card transactions. One of the most attractive features of CurrentC from the retailers’ point-of-view is that it is expected to connect directly to a customer’s bank account or to a store-specific credit card, eliminating those fees altogether or at least keeping them in-house.

If Apple is expecting a wave of consumer resentment to force the MCX retailers to change their minds, it might be disappointed. The biggest problem facing a viable mobile payments system to this point has been consumer inertia and that isn’t expected to change anytime soon. Although Apple claimed that over 1 million credit cards were linked to Apple Pay in the first 72 hours of launch, that represents just a tiny fraction of the more than 1.8 billion credit cards currently in use in the U.S. And, as many people have pointed out, Apple Pay only works with the iPhone 6, further restricting the potential backlash to a small, albeit extremely vocal, group of consumers.

As Apple has demonstrated many times in the past, it is happy to weather a slow adoption period in order to achieve a dominant position further down the road, and the company does have a history of persuading consumers to buy into something that they didn’t think they needed. However, asking Americans to get excited about a mobile payments system that they have doubts about in the first place is a particularly hard sell. Without the support of the retailers, it becomes nearly impossible.

You can follow Paul on Twitter, where he tweets as @TheTechDad

Apple Introduces the iPhone 6 and More

Apple today unveiled two new iPhones, mostly confirming the rumors about bigger displays, a faster processor and a redesigned keyboard. But the new iPhones were just the beginning of a series of major announcements, which included the roll out of iOS 8, a brand new mobile payments system, and Apple Watch, the company’s highly-anticipated wearable device which will go on sale early next year.

Here’s a quick wrap-up of what we learned during today’s presentation:

New iPhones

As expected, Apple is introducing two new iPhones – the iPhone 6, which will have a 4.7-inch screen, and a larger 5.5-inch model which will be known as the iPhone 6 Plus. Both phones will showcase a new Retina HD display, featuring over 1 million pixels on the iPhone 6 and over 2 million pixels on the iPhone 6 Plus.

It was clear from today’s presentation that Apple spent many hours agonizing over the functionality of the bigger iPhones and was keen to adhere to a principle of Apple founder Steve Jobs, who believed that mobile phones should be capable of being operated with just one hand. Consequently, there are some new swipe and touch gestures included with the new iPhones, including a “Reachability” feature that allows users to quickly slide content to the bottom of the bigger screen.

Apple also gave assurances that the majority of the 1.3 million apps that are now in the App Store would look good on the bigger screens thanks to a “desktop-class” scaler that’s incorporated into the new devices.

Other enhancements include a brand new A8 second-generation 64 bit chip, which will improve processing speeds by up to 50 percent, an M8 motion coprocessor, which gathers data from advanced sensors, and a barometer, which can help health and fitness apps measure elevation and performance.

Camera enhancements include optimal image stabilization and a number of improvements to the iPhone’s video capability, including video stabilization and the ability to shoot slo-mo video at up to 240 frames per second. There will also be “burst mode” for the front-facing FaceTime camera, which will no doubt please the selfie generation!

The new iPhones come in gold, silver or space gray and start at $199 for the 16GB iPhone 6 and $299 for the 16GB iPhone 6 Plus. Responding to calls for more storage, Apple is skipping the 32GB version of both devices, instead jumping straight to a 64GB option followed by a brand new 128GB category.

Customers will be able to pre-order the new phones from September 12, with the ship and in-store date set for September 19. In keeping with previous discounting policies, the existing iPhone 5S will now be available from $99 and the iPhone 5C for free, both with two-year contracts.

iOS 8

Apple’s new mobile operating system features an all-new Photos app, which makes it simpler to search and organize your photos, plus an updated Messages app, which allows users to add voice to a message or quickly send a video.

There are also enhancements to the keyboard, improvements to the Health app, and more synchronization through iCloud, including the ability to start an e-mail on one device and finish it on another.

iOS 8 will be available for download on September 17 and is compatible with the iPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPod touch 5th generation, and later devices.

Apple Pay

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the presentation (apart from U2 giving away their new album on iTunes for free; more on that later) was the announcement of Apple’s new mobile payments system called Apple Pay. The surprise was not the fact that Apple was getting involved in payments – that information had been widely leaked before today’s event – but just how far along Apple is in terms of development and deployment.

Making a payment using Apple Pay will be as simple as placing your iPhone next a checkout reader and holding your finger on the Touch ID button. There are currently an estimated 220,000 US merchants featuring tap-to-pay devices at checkout with more coming on stream all the time. To facilitate utilization of its payments system, Apple has already made arrangements with dozens of well-known retailers, including McDonald’s, Macy’s, Walgreens, Duane Reade, Staples, Disney and Whole Foods. The payment system will even work online, with apps like OpenTable and Groupon displaying a Touch ID button within their apps.

If you have an iTunes account, Apple will automatically add your iTunes credit or debit card to Apple Pay on sign up, and entering additional payment options is as simple as taking a photo of the relevant card. Apple took great pains to stress that they will not be tracking users purchase or spending habits. Even the cashier won’t be able to see any information, including the customer’s name and address.

Apple Pay will only work with the new iPhones but it should be operational as soon as they are available.

Apple Watch

Last but not least was the much-anticipated announcement of Apple’s first foray into wearable technology through Apple Watch (not called iWatch as most people had speculated).

Although the square face of the Watch looks a lot like some of the other wearable tech devices that have appeared over the last few years, the Apple device can be customized to the nth degree. It comes in three different versions – Watch, Watch Sport and Watch Edition – and each version can be fitted with a multitude of different straps to “fit your tastes and personality.”

The Watch will feature an array of custom apps that will allow you to do everything from control your music to send an “I’m thinking of you” message to a loved one through a simple wrist tap. In fact much of the functionality of the Watch relies on Haptic technology – vibrations or taps that have a specific meaning. For example, the Watch’s GPS function can send a different turn right or turn left haptic, so you know where to go without even looking at the device itself.

Along with the usual tap-to-zoom and swipe gestures, the Watch features a control wheel or “Digital Crown” that resembles a large winding wheel on the side of the device. Pressing or turning the Digital Crown allows additional scrolling, as well as a quick way to get back to the Home screen.

Despite the inclusion of email, contacts and other everyday functions, it was clear from the presentation that Apple was placing great emphasis on the health and fitness possibilities of the Watch. As well as a heart rate monitor, the Watch features several other sensors that allow the device to interact with an array of health and fitness apps, helping users both monitor current activity and set future goals.

It remains to be seen whether wearable technology is a fad or whether it has some usefulness to individuals beyond the geeky and the curious. It certainly got the Apple faithful excited, with a launch date of “early next year” eliciting the only groan of the entire presentation. Prices for the Apple Watch will start at $349.

Something for nothing

As they have often done in the past, Apple executives added a musical component to today’s presentation, inviting U2 to come on stage and play a track from the band’s new album, Songs of Innocence. Afterwards, Apple CEO Tim Cook and U2’s Bono got together to announce that the album would be available as a free download on iTunes through October 13. That represents a potential fan base of over 500 million and presumably a sizeable investment for Apple – a fitting way to end a presentation that was never short of surprise or big ideas!