At Apple’s event today, it’s strongly rumoured we’ll see a mobile payment system being unveiled.
NFC has long been associated with Android, but Apple’s rarely first to the party. The thing is, as Apple showed with smartphones and tablets, its implementation is frequently the best and certainly the most usable, leaving others scrabbling to pivot and catch up.
Here’s what we hope Tim Cook and co. will be talking about today when it comes to iOS and your money.
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1. Ease of use
Some people argue Apple kit’s for tech numpties, but everyone benefits from intuitive interfaces and systems that have instant, friction-free set-ups. The key aspect of any Apple payment system will be that anyone can use it, which will mean more people wanting to use it, resulting in…
2. Rapid widespread adoption
In technology, a great idea is worth little without support. Apple’s Passbook suffered in that regard; initially touted as a big deal for storing coupons, tickets and store cards, a lack of support has seen it become one of those rarely-used iOS apps, lurking next to Stocks and Voice Memos.
With a payment system, Apple must get widespread adoption - and fast - in order for the system to truly succeed. This can come through whatever Apple produces working well with (but adding value to) existing systems, or by Apple announcing a network of partner retailers on board from day one. (And if the latter’s the case, some outside of the USA would be lovely, Tim.)
3. Positioning in stores
Apple’s peppered its Apple Stores with iBeacon proximity sensors, but this could go wider, to aforementioned partner locations. Everyone benefits: outlets get more information about the patterns of shoppers; shoppers can potentially more easily locate items, and get prodded about special offers; and privacy advocates get something else to furiously complain about.
4. Smart notifications
On special offers, NFC-style systems can easily be used to bombard a user with alerts every time they wander vaguely near something that could save them a few bucks if they bought it, regardless of whether they’d actually want to.
iOS is already home to a notifications system that at best could be described as hideously annoying, so we’d like to see something smarter. Apple’s payment system should learn your tastes and only nudge you when it thinks you’ll definitely be interested in an offer. That’s the difference between a system you’ll come to love and one you’ll disable at the first available opportunity.
5. Cross-device support
NFC payment systems typically require very close proximity, forcing you to waggle your expensive smartphone close to a receiver. It’d be much easier to do this with, say, some kind of wrist-based wearable device that somehow seamlessly connects to your iPhone or iPad stored elsewhere. But clearly there’s no way Apple would ever make such a thing.
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6. Insanely robust security
Apple’s security has rightly been called into question due to recent iPhone photo thefts, and Apple would have to ensure any payment system was absurdly robust. We expect to see lots of slides of very flat padlock graphics, and an Apple exec talking about how secure all your money will be when using Apple’s system, and how it can’t be hacked. (We’ll then look forward to a hacker making headlines next week by saying they wen through the system like butter.)
7. A non-stupid name
NFC. Oh dear. That doesn’t really get people excited, does it? Although it's definitely better than Near Field Communication. And while people moan that Apple’s marketing is over the top, branding is key for getting people to remember and use services and systems. So… iPay?
8. More emphasis on pay-and-leave
While it’s all very nice not to have to go through the sheer energy drain of signing your name or typing in a pin number, instead tapping a device on a receiver, it’s better to avoid checkouts entirely. Apple’s in-store EasyPay system enables you to pick up items, pay for them using your device via an app, and then walk out the door; we’d expect such a system to become more widespread once Apple gets heavily into payments.
9. Half-price iPads for anyone using Apple’s payment system!
Well, it was worth a try…