My favorite mobile payments app – and it’s not Apple Pay

013 - mobile payments 2Am I the only one who hasn’t fallen under Apple Pay’s spell? It’s not just that it’s not available to those who don’t own an iPhone nor that the tap and pay NFC (near field communication) technology can’t be used at most point-of-sale (POS) devices. While reports of consumers linking their debit and credit cards to Apple Pay are high, repeat usage figures are less impressive, with only about half of the numbers.


The problem lies in the user experience. It’s inconsistent from store to store. Combined with this, it’s not as straightforward nor as easy to use as people would suggest. Here’s an example from the many takes (That would be 7 attempts to be exact) with my very patient and supportive husband, Michael, along with an amused and also patient registrar clerk.

Michael demonstrates unlocking his phone, opening up the Passbook, the Apple Pay app, selecting the card of his choice, using his thumb print for authentication to process the transaction …and encountering a delay. Thank you to the supermarket who will remain nameless, but my personal favorite for their consistent superior customer service.


Sometimes the process was immediate, but more often than not, it wasn’t. (If not for the objective of this blog I would have reverted to my reliable plastic card!) The additional step to select the payment type was a further nuisance. On the other hand, we used Apple Pay at a pharmacy when visiting Florida a few months earlier. There were no additional steps, so part of the user experience is dependent on the merchant and its point-of-sale device.


There are aspects of Apple Pay that make it attractive though. My husband pointed out the recent reward received from Chipotle, a popular Mexican chain restaurant. As more of these types of associated rewards increase, the stickiness factor will strengthen. The Passbook (app used for Apple Pay) also allows you to organize your life beyond payments. When traveling, you can download your boarding pass – a considerable convenience to carrying a flimsy piece of paper that gets folded, crumpled, or event lost, while going through security and rushing to the gate.

Passbook 2v1

But thus far the only superstar to emerge in the world of mobile payments is Starbucks. Its success can be attributed to a myriad reasons. Beyond the ubiquity of using any phone, the environment encourages consumer addiction of a daily mainstay – everyone needs their morning cup of Joe, right? – and those fun animated stars showing your rewards, keep making people going back for more. That would be 8 million payment transactions every week to be exact.


Starbucks app lg2

Steps to using a Starbucks mobile app


What Starbucks has also perfected is the seamless experience. Starbucks leverages the QR (Quick Response) code displayed on the mobile screen and scanned at the registrar. While I’ll admit that I personally don’t think QR codes are as sexy as NFC technology, right now it appears to process transactions quicker. This is also what I’d like to see with Apple Pay – a swift and frictionless payment experience.


Today when I make my daily trip to get my java, I take my dog, my keys, my mobile phone, and head out the door. This is my nirvana – a future without having to worry about carrying a fat wallet for any type of purchases, whether coffee, groceries, or gas… And maybe someday that will even mean no more keys.

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