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Apple Pay: Remind Us Why This is Better Again?

When Apple rolled out Apple Pay several months ago, it was hailed by many as the long-awaited Apple-ization of transaction processing. While as of this writing we still don’t have iPhone 6s, we were jealous when we saw the seamless integration of Touch ID authentication. Finally, it really is about “touch…and go!”. They’ve taken something we all do regularly — purchasing products with a credit card — and made it simpler and easier. Apple has done it again. Or have they? 

Months have passed since the Apple Pay announcement, we’ve had a chance to talk with users and retailers, and have come to a preliminary conclusion about Apple Pay: it has a LONG way to go before it can be hailed as improving the bricks-and-mortar retail experience. While it’s better than the laughably bad “competitor”, CurrentC, it just doesn’t provide an experience that’s sufficiently differentiated from what currently exists. It’s cool, but it’s far from a game changer.

The POS process from the Apple Pay "competitor", CurrentC. Oh yeah, this will work great. Pure genius. 

I guess the main issue we have is this: what do I get that I don’t get now? When I buy some groceries at Whole Foods, I take my wallet out of my pocket and wave it in front of the RFID reader, which connects with the Amex Card in my wallet which initiates the transaction. I provide an “electronic signature” (usually in the form of a smiley face, because such signatures really don’t have much purpose when it comes to authentication), and I’m on my way. On the other hand, the guy in line behind me who uses Apple Pay takes out his phone to initiate the transaction, thumbs around with Touch ID, provides an electronic signature, and then he’s on his way. 

So…remind me again why Apple Pay made this experience better for the other guy? Yeah, it turns out there are quite a few times that customers are asked to provide a signature in addition to the Touch ID authentication, so there’s no convenience gain there. Whether a signature is required or not is based on a knot of dependencies relating to the purchase amount, the credit card issuers fraud detection levels, and the merchant’s rules. In short, sometimes you need to sign, sometimes you don’t. And if a Missouri lawmaker gets his way, folks in the Show-Me-State will have to take their state motto to heart. The Representative’s bill would require customers to show a state driver’s license or other identification when they use a mobile wallet app or other electronic payment system. What the &*@$#?? So much for convenience. 

Beyond the promise of sometime-I-won’t-have-to-sign, the real allure of Apple Pay (beyond providing better security) is that someday I can leave my credit cards at home. Or, at the very least, I can have all my credit cards rolled up into a single electronic container, like Swyp, Coin, or Plastc (assuming these guys are ever able to get real agreements with the credit card companies and actually ship products). The thing is, unless every merchant accepts Apple Pay, I’m still going to bring my credit cards along…which means I might as well bring my wallet, too. So, in the end, Apple Pay won’t let me truly cut the credit card cord, ever. So while Apple Pay introduces real convenience to online payments, it doesn’t mean much for us when it comes to in-person point-of-sale. Not being iPhone 6 users, maybe we’ve got it wrong, and this is just sour grapes. Either way, let us know if you’ve found it to be a “game changer”.

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