THE DEAL WITH AP­PLE PAY

A RE­VIEW OF AP­PLE’S MO­BILE PAY­MENT SER­VICE

iPhone Life Magazine - - Istats - Jor­dan Joynt is a web con­tent pro­ducer for Mered­ith Cor­po­ra­tion. He also writes about emerg­ing tech­nol­ogy, mo­bile news, and in­ter­est­ing Kick­starter projects. To see more of his work, visit jor­dan­joynt.com.

Days of fum­bling through your wal­let and credit cards in the check­out line may be com­ing to an end. With the in­tro­duc­tion of Ap­ple Pay—a mo­bile pay­ment ser­vice baked into iOS 8.1 on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus—Ap­ple aims to make your wal­let ob­so­lete in fa­vor of stor­ing your credit card in­for­ma­tion di­rectly to your phone. With this touc­hand-go tech­nol­ogy, users can make quick pur­chases within apps, or wire­lessly in brick-and-mor­tar stores us­ing near field com­mu­ni­ca­tion (NFC) tech­nol­ogy. This ob­vi­ously speeds up the point-of-sale process in the check­out line, but is it re­ally a bona fide “credit card killer?”

Of course, Ap­ple isn't the first com­pany to take a shot at mak­ing mo­bile pay­ments. Both Google and PayPal have tried to stake their claim to the ser­vice. What sep­a­rates Ap­ple Pay from the likes of Google Wal­let and PayPal's mo­bile app is an added em­pha­sis on se­cu­rity and ease of use. A few added steps (en­ter­ing a PIN at the ter­mi­nal) make us­ing Google Wal­let less in­con­ve­nient, and PayPal re­quires an app, a pass­word, and a lit­tle ex­tra time search­ing for the restau­rant or store. The beauty of Ap­ple Pay is that those ex­tra­ne­ous steps are taken out of the equa­tion, mak­ing the process ex­actly how it was in­tended to be: sim­ple.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Near field com­mu­ni­ca­tion—a type of wire­less tech­nol­ogy that lets you send in­for­ma­tion to nearby de­vices us­ing an elec­tri­cal field—is imbed­ded in your iPhone 6 and al­lows you to use the credit and debit card in­for­ma­tion stored in your Pass­code app in or­der to make pay­ments. You can en­ter this in­for­ma­tion by ei­ther snap­ping a photo of your card with your iPhone's cam­era or by en­ter­ing the num­ber man­u­ally. For my pur­poses, I used a debit card with U.S. Bank, so setup only took a minute or two. Ap­ple Pay works with most ma­jor US banks, but some smaller, re­gional banks may not par­tic­i­pate right out of the gate.

Once you reach a pay ter­mi­nal, you'll want to hover your phone near the con­tact­less reader. Sim­ply place your fin­ger on your Touch ID sen­sor, wait for the vibrating no­ti­fi­ca­tion, and you're fin­ished—it's that easy.

IS AP­PLE PAY SAFE?

Due to Ap­ple's high-pro­file data breaches and se­cu­rity is­sues last year, it's nat­u­ral that peo­ple would ques­tion the se­cu­rity of Ap­ple Pay. Ap­ple re­mains con­fi­dent, how­ever, claim­ing that ven­dors will never ac­tu­ally come in con­tact with users' credit card num­bers. In­stead, Ap­ple Pay as­signs and stores a De­vice Ac­count Num­ber on a ded­i­cated chip on the iPhone rather than on Ap­ple servers. When you make a pay­ment, the ac­count num­ber and a spe­cial se­cu­rity code are trans­mit­ted, while your credit card in­for­ma­tion re­mains pri­vate. Trans­ac­tions aren't stored on your iPhone, though re­cent pur­chases will show up in your Pass­book app. If you hap­pen to lose your phone, you can use Find My iPhone to switch your de­vice to Lost Mode, or even wipe the iPhone drive com­pletely to pro­tect your data.

WHERE CAN I USE IT?

Sev­eral re­tail part­ners an­nounced their back­ing of the pay­ment sys­tem early on. Th­ese in­cluded var­i­ous cloth­ing stores like Amer­i­can Ea­gle Out­fit­ters and Bloom­ing­dale's, along with many fast food chains, in­clud­ing McDon­ald's and Pan­era. I de­cided to put Ap­ple Pay to the test at McDon­ald's, Amer­i­can Ea­gle, and a Nike out­let store.

The process was much smoother than I ex­pected, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing how new the ser­vice still is. My at­tempts to use Ap­ple Pay at McDon­ald's and Amer­i­can Ea­gle were suc­cess­ful on the first try, although it took a cou­ple of at­tempts at the Nike out­let store be­fore my pur­chase went through. This was likely due to an is­sue with the NFC reader or Touch ID, so it didn't steer me away from the pay­ment method al­to­gether. A cou­ple of lo­ca­tions still re­quired a sig­na­ture or PIN af­ter us­ing the mo­bile pay­ment method, mak­ing the process nearly iden­ti­cal to swip­ing a card, both in time and ef­fi­ciency. Hope­fully, this added step will soon fall by the way­side.

Even though the pay­ments were largely suc­cess­ful, some of the em­ploy­ees were be­wil­dered when I opted to pay with a phone rather than swipe a card. That could be chalked up to a wide­spread il­lit­er­acy con­cern­ing mo­bile pay­ment. This il­lus­trated to me the need for bet­ter train­ing.

You can also use Ap­ple Pay to make in-app pur­chases. I found this process to be even sim­pler and will likely be my go-to choice when shop­ping on­line. Sev­eral apps have al­ready in­te­grated the ser­vice into their pay­ment meth­ods, so you can skip en­ter­ing in your card num­ber when sign­ing up for ser­vices like Uber and Lyft. I used the Tar­get app to buy a flash drive and no­ticed a speed­ier check­out with Ap­ple Pay. Pay­ment in­for­ma­tion is al­ready in place, but you may still be prompted to en­ter your billing ad­dress.

VER­DICT:

Ap­ple Pay still has a ways to go in build­ing trust and fa­mil­iar­ity with con­sumers and re­tail­ers alike. But as far as mo­bile pay­ments are con­cerned, this one is hard to beat. Once we see a size­able growth in re­tail­ers and iron out some of the wrin­kles, I could see us­ing the ser­vice on a fairly regular ba­sis. Un­til then, I'll con­tinue to reach for my wal­let.

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