2015- The year of mobile payments?


With the Mobile World Congress taking place this week, there have been endless articles detailing the latest movements in mobile payments globally.

Don’t know much about mobile payments?

Let’s break it down:

What is Apple Pay?

Apple Pay is available on the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch. These devices are fitted with a small microchip which includes all your bank information, enabling payments to be made using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, whether in store or on apps.

What is Google Wallet?

Google Wallet enables you to pay friends via email, as well as making purchases online or in store using the Tap and Pay app.

The key differences are:

Google Wallet is effectively an additional bank account which you top up as and when you need, where as Apple Pay is directly connected with your existing bank account.

With Google Wallet, users will have a separate pin for that account. In contrast, with Apple Pay you are able to authorise payments simply with a fingerprint if using an iPhone. With Apple Watch a PIN is entered on the first purchase, but purchases from there on only require a double tap on the device, as long as the watch remains in contact with your skin. Sensors on the back of the device continuously monitor if the device is removed from your wrist.

Not only are users in the UK now able to send money to friends using Google Wallet, but the new Android Pay API has been created, enabling developers to integrate mobile payments into their apps. Whilst in the US, it has been announced that Apple Pay will be coming to over 200,000 vending machines, self-service kiosks and parking pay stations.

What can we expect next?

With Apple CEO, Tim Cook stating ‘2015 will be the year of Apple Pay,’ and Google rumoured to launch its Tap and Pay mobile app later this year, the race is on. Also in the mix are Square and Paypal, building similar apps to add to the competition.

But before we all get over-excited that we will be able to walk into a store tomorrow with just our phones – let’s remember adoption is likely to be a slow process. Systems will need to be compatible across platforms, rather than shops needing one system for Android, and another for Apple users etc. which let’s face it, would just be chaos!

As BlackBerry did with its much-loved BBM application, these companies would be wise to go cross-platform, giving flexibility to both retailers and purchasers.

Merchants and banks alike have both been reluctant to adopt to this new technology, with concerns regarding the level of financial and personal information the tech giants will gain once such systems are used – after all there will be very little these companies don’t know about us.

Either way, the likelihood is that we will all for some time, maintain our usual routine and stick to what we know – reaching for our wallets rather than our mobiles when making a transaction.

Making adoption of mobile payments even slower is undoubtedly the regular presence of hacking in recent news. This focus in the media means we’re all feeling a bit weary when it comes to our smartphones. Tech companies need to educate the sceptics and demonstrate the security of such payment methods.

Apple Pay is said to offer end-to-end security, authenticating payments with a fingerprint, and making it arguably more secure than plastic. No card information is visible and all account data is held securely on a chip within the phone. If the phone is lost, the chip and the phone itself can be blocked remotely using Apple’s ‘Find My iPhone’ tool. The same process is possible for Google Wallet. However as the saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way – hackers will adapt as technology advances.

Will it take off?

Though having mentioned these potential security issues, I must admit, when retailers do invest in mobile payment technology, I definitely won’t be reaching for my wallet any longer! Having my fitness tracking, calendar, social networks and my spending all on one device is the future and a future I’m eager for!

If Apple Pay and other mobile payment services take off as they are expected to within the next few years, this could be a shake up for hundreds of businesses, echoing the profound impact iTunes had on the music industry.