Apple’s newest iOS 8.1 update bring Apple Pay capabilities to iPhone 6 and iPhone 6+. Apple Pay is the “revolutionary” new product for iOS that’s going to change the way consumers purchase products. At least that’s how Apple’s marketing the system, and we’ll just have to wait for the ultimate results.

A familiar stop for Android users

Basically, Apple Pay is a digital wallet that stores and processes payments from your mobile device. Apple users can opt to pay for products or services with their device using near-field communication (NFC) and Apple’s Passbook app. A simple tap of the device to a terminal or press of the button inside the app, and the user can digitally transfer money to the merchant.

Apple Pay

A number of different columnists report that the service works well. The users also report that Apple Pay is convenient and easily processes information.

Those findings shouldn’t surprise Android users, since most Android users (at least the Nexus users) are quite familiar with the Apple Pay concept. In fact, Google introduced its similar product, Google Wallet, in 2011 with accompanying apps for Android and iOS, and  a traditional, physical card.

The stalemate

Unfortunately, Google Wallet never took off. Even though most newer (post-2012) Android devices support NFC, some wireless carriers — AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon, we’re looking at you — blocked the service on their networks. This included Nexus devices, which hypothetically are unrestricted. Google also restricted usage of Google Wallet to United States customers only. Thankfully, Apple dominates the US smartphone market. That means more devices pushing more mobile payments.

Similarly, even though the application operated on some devices and carriers, users often find themselves standing in front of terminals that don’t work, or can’t read the NFC chip. Thus, even though the merchant can theoretically receive NFC payments, the actual process is much more complicated or even non-existent.

However, when Google Wallet works, it’s fantastic!

Apple’s entry means progress

I’m very excited that Apple is finally entering the mobile payments market. As more consumers upgrade their iPhones and start pressuring merchants to accept mobile payments, we should see an increase in the available options for Android users. Plus, perhaps Google will start marketing its Google Wallet product universally, which will also increase usability.

Apple Pay and Google Wallet function in a similar manner. Each product allows the user to connect banking account or credit cards to the service, then select a card or account for the app to complete the sale. Money to fund the purchase comes from your checking, savings, or credit card.

The apps show balances and use security features — Google Wallet uses a PIN; Apple Pay uses fingerprint scanning — to protect the information.

Google Wallet

If you’re a Google Wallet user and you opt to receive a physical card, it’s also attached to the MasterCard brand for worldwide acceptance.

Apple’s process, or even its entry into the payments marketplace, isn’t revolutionary. The bonus of Apple’s entry into the program is simply confirmation that this is future of payment processing. Apple’s users will push merchants to adopt stronger credit card security (especially in the United States) and easier payment methods. Of course, if you’re worried about our implosion to a cashless society, let Apple Pay and Google Wallet fester those fears.

But what about my privacy?

There are a lot of misconceptions about “tap and pay” technologies. Perhaps the most common fear is that criminals will go around reading credit card information with scanners.

If you’ve ever used NFC you’ll know that problem isn’t likely to happen. Although NFC uses radio to broadcast information, NFC is very limited in its broadcast abilities. In most cases, you’ll need to physically touch two NFC devices together to create the connection. Sometimes the connectable distance is less than a few millimeters. You’ll also need to hold contact with the two devices for as long as two seconds (usually shorter) in order for the recognition to occur.

Thus, if you’re a criminal looking to “score” by scanning for NFC tags, you’re probably out of luck. You’ll need to guess the NFC user, get close enough for a transfer, and begin groping long enough to maintain contact and pull the information.

With mobile devices, the risk of theft is even less, since Paypass and Google Wallet each utilize security measures to protect your information. First, tap and pay payments cannot happen unless the app is open, which signals the device to looks for the appropriate NFC tag to establish the secure link. These apps are protected by fingerprint (Apple Pay) or PIN (Google Wallet). Setting strong PINs will help further protect your data.

Second, even though the information travels with a radio signal, the programs and processes use encryption and other protective measures to encode the data.

Finally, you’ll have to confirm that you want to complete the transaction from inside the app. For Apple Pay, this means using your fingerprint or passcode, while Google Wallet just requires an “OK” confirmation. Now you’ll receive electronic confirmation of the transaction in the form of a receipt.

Both apps are much more secure than traditional cards, and they each help you easily manage your transactions and summaries.

Advantage, Google Wallet

Right now, the ability to add loyalty and cards to Google Wallet gives Wallet one advantage over Apple Pay.

Google Wallet Loyalty Cards

However, I wouldn’t expect that advantage to last too long.

Apple is committed to marketing Apple Pay. I wouldn’t expect Apple to make Pay available on Android, but the release of Apple Pay is definitely good news for Android. Android users can expect more adoption and mobile payment opportunities in the coming months. Maybe if we’re lucky, we’ll also see international adoption and support for Google Wallet. And if your Android device isn’t compatible with Google Wallet, petition the provider to unlock the utility.

Welcome to mobile payments

So if you’re a new Apple Pay user, Viva la revolucion! Let’s work together to pester merchants everywhere to upgrade their terminals and accept mobile payments. Personally, I’m looking forward to the day I don’t have to dig into my wallet on a frosty morning to pay for gasoline at the gas station.

Photo: Forbes

Jeff Taylor

I'm just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I'm also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.


Aaron John · October 21, 2014 at 5:31 pm

Finally maybe stores will use this technology if the iphone sheep want it. I’ve tried to use my google wallet to pay at multiple stores when I noticed the NFC pad or logo and every single one of them said that it didn’t work yet.

    Jeff Taylor · October 21, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    I wouldn’t count on too much greater availability until we see higher iPhone 6 adoption. You’ll just have to keep using the Google Wallet card, or buying lots of Big Macs. McDonald’s is the only place I can consistently use the NFC terminals.

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