Apple Pay is one big step in a long race

If anyone can bring mobile payments to the mainstream, it’s Apple. Sort of. Apple will lead the way, but given Android was 85% of phones shipped last quarter, Google must follow suit for mobile payments to be truly mainstream. Fortunately, if Apple’s execution works, it will be a simple matter for Google to clone.

The basics of Apple Pay: you scan your credit cards into the iPhone 6 — the phone encrypts the card’s data so nobody can obtain its details — and you then pay via NFC with the phone or Apple Watch at merchants. Touch ID is used to authenticate. This will work at all standard NFC terminals, which is slowly becoming more prevalent.

As you can see, Apple is an enabler, not a disruptor. Apple Pay makes it easier to use the credit cards you already have. This keeps the banks and credit card companies happy because they remain front and center, as opposed to say, Square, which cuts banks out of the value chain.

Apple claims that Apple Pay can lower the risk of fraud with Touch ID, tokenization security and increased privacy given that credit card data isn’t shared with the merchant. Therefore, they deserve 0.15% of transactions.

Apple makes a clever, win-win argument. If this works, the financial windfall can be huge.

All this makes sense for Apple, banks and credit card companies. Merchants are probably neutral. But many of us here are entrepreneurs, and it’s in our nature to ask: what problem does this solve?

Tim Cook made a big deal framing Apple Pay in terms of the consumer. But is getting a credit card out of your wallet really that much of a problem? Is carrying multiple cards in a wallet that troublesome?

It might be a small problem — maybe inconsequential — but the hassle of credit cards and wallets is something we’ve all experienced before.

Instagram’s photo filters solved a small problem, and they’re proof you can create tremendous value by solving a small problem for a lot of people.

My prediction: tech savvy iPhone users will use Apple Pay while the vast majority will continue using credit cards like they always have, and that’s because the cost of learning how to use a new system outweighs the benefit of virtualizing physical cards.

Apple needs to do more to entice the lazy. One huge potential area is getting merchants to integrate their loyalty programs with Passbook; e.g., so customers can earn points automatically with Apple Pay. There’s no need to carry membership cards. Apple is well positioned in that respect.

Mobile payments took a big step forward with Apple Pay, but it’ll be years if not decades before we can leave the wallet at home.

2 thoughts on “Apple Pay is one big step in a long race

    1. Agreed! This could also work for markets like Indonesia, where people go crazy signing up with credit cards to take advantage of deals. But I can see that quickly reaching equilibrium, where banks realize signing doesn’t equal to usage.


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