Af­ter two years Ap­ple Pay still feels like the fu­ture

Sure, we don’t have jet packs, but we can buy things with a Jedi Mind Trick wave of the wrist, and that’s pretty cool too, ar­gues Ja­son Snell

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There’s a lot of neg­a­tiv­ity out there, on the web and in the world. Peo­ple are an­gry, dis­sat­is­fied, tired of po­lit­i­cal clashes and on­line ar­gu­ments and the re­al­iza­tion that the In­ter­net con­nects us di­rectly the best and worst hu­man­ity has to of­fer.

I’m not say­ing the anger and frus­tra­tion isn’t jus­ti­fied. If you’re feel­ing it, you prob­a­bly have a good rea­son. But some­times, even in dark times, it’s worth tak­ing a deep breath, step­ping back, and con­sid­er­ing the big­ger pic­ture

about 2017. It’s this: it’s twenty sev­en­teen. The. Fu­ture. And even though we don’t have fly­ing cars or jet packs or a colony on Mars, Ap­ple’s done its best to make the fu­ture pretty darn amaz­ing.

Fu­ture proof

Any adult who takes a step back and ad­mires what tech­nol­ogy has brought us in the last few years has to ad­mit that we are liv­ing in a science-fic­tion won­der­land, when viewed from the per­spec­tive of even 20 years ago.

The ob­vi­ous one is the smart­phone. Hard as it is to be­lieve, but it’s still been less than 10 years since the first iPhone shipped. In the in­ter­ven­ing decade nearly a third of the world’s pop­u­la­tion and nearly three-quar­ters of Amer­i­cans carry an in­ter­net-con­nected su­per­com­puter in their pock­ets. It’s hard not to imag­ine that the era we’re liv­ing in right now will be con­sid­ered a sea change for the hu­man race, as com­put­ing power and con­nec­tiv­ity be­came avail­able to most of us around the world.

The smart­phone changes ev­ery­thing. It ru­ins trivia con­tests and spon­ta­neous games of “who was the guy who was in that thing”? It lets peo­ple work from any­where, any­time – for good and for ill. It’s hard to imag­ine life with­out it, and 10 years it ba­si­cally didn’t ex­ist. (Yes, pedants – I owned a Palm Treo in 2007–it wasn’t the same.)

Ap­ple Pay, shop­ping’s Jedi Mind Trick

Or try this one for size: The other week­end I drove my elec­tric car to a shop­ping cen­tre and bought a bunch of gro­ceries with my watch.

That re­ally hap­pened. I bought a used Nis­san Leaf, which upon fur­ther re­flec­tion is sort of like an iPad on wheels –

touch­screen, bat­tery, charg­ing ca­ble – and now drive a car that feels more like a space­ship (or to be fair, a golf cart) than a tra­di­tional au­to­mo­bile.

And when I reached my des­ti­na­tion I bought all the pur­chases at both stores by tap­ping twice on my Ap­ple Watch and us­ing Ap­ple Pay. This has lost none of its nov­elty for me over the last year – it’s still in­cred­i­bly cool to pay with­out pulling ei­ther my wal­let or phone out of my pocket.

The fu­ture also ex­tends to the United King­dom, which I vis­ited a cou­ple of weeks ago. [ Ja­son is based in our San Fran­cisco of­fice, Ed] Not only is Ap­ple Pay ac­tive in the UK (it wasn’t dur­ing my last visit), but ‘con­tact­less’ credit cards with em­bed­ded RFID chips have be­come wildly pop­u­lar. None of my Amer­i­can credit cards are con­tact­less, but al­most every con­tact­less ter­mi­nal I tried worked just fine with Ap­ple Pay. As a re­sult, I never took out a sin­gle pound from a cash point when I was in the UK, and didn’t use cash at all–the en­tire week I spent in Eng­land and Scot­land was funded via credit card, largely via Ap­ple Pay.

(Pro tip for in­ter­na­tional travellers from the US: though our cards now have chips, which al­lows them to be in­serted into the chip read­ers com­mon else­where in the world, most card is­suers still de­mand that we sign a printed re­ceipt when we pay, rather than in­putting a PIN code. This will some­times lead to a heavy sigh from a cashier as they re­al­ize they need to go find a pen so you can sign. I by­passed the is­sue en­tirely by us­ing Ap­ple Pay.)

I did have one bit of dis­ap­point­ment on the trip – namely, that the fare gates at the London Un­der­ground wouldn’t work with my US credit cards. (I had to get a con­tact­less Oys­ter card in­stead.) The Un­der­ground has built sup­port for con­tact­less credit cards and Ap­ple Pay

into its sys­tem – you tag your card or de­vice at both ends and it au­to­mat­i­cally deducts the fare – but it re­quires some spe­cific sup­port that my Amer­i­can banks don’t of­fer. Alas.

One more thing

Upon re­turn­ing home in my elec­tric car from my Ap­ple Pay-fu­elled shop­ping trip, I re­al­ize I’m able to is­sue voice com­mands to turn ap­pli­ances on and off in my house due to the Ama­zon Echo sit­ting in my kitchen. (Or, al­ter­nately, I could is­sue many of the same com­mands to my phone or watch us­ing Siri.) Most shock­ingly, I can say, “Alexa, play the song that goes, ‘The dreams in which I’m dy­ing are the best I’ve ever had,’” and “Mad World” im­me­di­ately starts play­ing.

Yes, this means I can no longer play “what was the name of that song again?” with friends. But that’s what life is like here in the fu­ture.

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