Unless it’s with a briefcase stuffed with banknotes, the act of paying for things has never really been regarded as cool. Giving up the means to buy goods and services is more a necessary inconvenience than a lifestyle choice. But if any company can turn transactions into a statement then Apple surely has a shot.
Cupertino’s tech giant launched Apple Pay in the UK today. The service allows those with a current-generation iPhone or Apple Watch to pay for things using their device in any shop that accepts contactless payments.
It’s not an especially innovative system. Vodafone and EE have offered similar services since 2013 and contactless card payments, which frankly aren’t that much different, have been possible since 2008. But Apple’s brand power has a unique ability to stimulate mass adoption in a way that virtually no other business can. Most people weren’t interested in owning a tablet before 2010 – last year Apple sold 68 million iPads.
#ApplePay was trending top on Twitter in London this morning as early adopters boasted of paying for their tube journeys or morning cup of coffee using their phone. But some were hit by the unwelcome news that their bank didn’t support the service. It’s currently only available for customers of RBS, Natwest, Santander, Nationwide, AmEx and some smaller outfits, though HSBC, Halifax, Lloyds and TSB are expected to join soon.
Barclays, which has been dragging its feet over Apple Pay, finally confirmed this morning that its customers would be able to use it soon as well, which seems like the right decision. The bank had been keen to promote its own proprietary bPay payment devices, including a pretty naff wristband and a keyfob, but ignoring what customers actually want is never a smart move.
In 15 years there’s every chance Apple will be a washed up dinosaur that got so big that it can’t innovate anymore. But it seems pretty certain that paying with our mobile phones (or chips embedded in our skin… facial recognition… telepathy) will be the norm - and Tim Cook’s outfit looks set to play a leading role in brining that about.