Apple Pay Isn't a Big Deal Anymore, and That's Great!

Posted by Matt Birchler
β€” 3 min read

It would be safe to say I'm an "early adopter" when it comes to tech. I get the most I new stuff I can afford as soon as it's available. I keep up with the latest phones, tablets, and web services even though I could certainly get by just fine with less. I'm also obsessed with trying out all of my options1, so when something new comes out, I give it a go.

All of this adds up to me of course trying Apple Pay out as soon as it was available back in October 2014. I was in a Walgreens literally the morning Apple pushed the service live and bought a Coke with my phone. It was awesome, and the cashier didn't bat an eye. It seemed like the future was here and it was just as easy as advertised.

But then I started to try Apple Pay as many places as I could, and it wasn't always as easy as I hoped. I tried it at McDonalds and they had to awkwardly hold the card reader out the window for me to reach with my phone. I was...weird. And then even places like Whole Foods and Panara, where Apple Pay was built into the existing terminals, I would always get a look from the cashier that implied "oh, you're one of those people." I literally had someone roll their eyes when they asked if I was paying with my phone.

The funny thing is that Apple Pay never failed, it always worked perfectly. The only impediments to me using it were social hesitations as I didn't want to make a scene, or minor training misses on retailers' part in getting their employees to understand these new payment rollouts they were supporting. I can't imagine I'm alone in feeling total love for the product that Apple Pay was, but slight hesitation about using it all the time.

Fast forward 1 year

One thing I've noticed over the past few months is that I'm using Apple Pay regularly and it's no big deal. I walk up to the register at Meijer and pay with my phone an nobody bats an eye. I can even pay with my Apple Watch at Jewel and the reaction tends to be "that's so cool!" and not the eye roll I had almost come to expect. It's not Apple Pay, but I used the Starbucks app to pay with my Apple Watch a few days ago and the barista literally said "shit, that's badass!"

Suddenly Apple Pay has shifted from weird outlier to something totally normal, and sometimes just plain badass (don't take my word for it, as my barista!). This is how phone payments should be! Weird tech doesn't take off, but tech that can slip seamlessly into our lives has a chance. In my experience, Apple Pay has shifted to just another way to pay for stuff, and while that sounds kind of boring, it's actually very liberating.

The trigger was not Apple Pay, but EMV

And as much as I'd like to say that Apple Pay and Android Pay (and that weird stop-gap Samsung solution) have made people think differently about how they pay for things, I think the most powerful force has been the onset of EMV (chip + pin and chip + signature) in the United States. EMV has made everyone throw out decades of muscle memory and start to think about how they're paying in stores. Not only have the specific actions changed, but the process is slowed down and requires you to pay more attention to the sale.

Oh, and those terrible BUUUZZZZZZ sounds when you try to swipe your card and when it's time to take it out of the reader. Who the fuck chose those sounds?

I have to think that this industry-wide change makes phone payments seem less like someone being eccentric and more like just another new way we pay for things. When you add in the security pitch, speed compared to EMV, and convenience of being in your phone, suddenly Apple Pay seems like a better, more palatable pitch. The payments industry is in flux and people are relearning old habits. This is the time for phone payments to really go mainstream, so I hope Apple and Google start to put a lot more marketing force behind this and get more people taking advantage of the feature in their phone they may not even know about.

  1. I've run this site on: WordPress, Squarespace, Statamic, Ghost, and Tumblr. I use OmniFocus for my tasks now, but I've also used Things, Todoist, 2Do, Reminders, and Due. My RSS reader is currently Feedbin, but I've also used Feedly, Google Reader, Fever, and Feed Wrangler. You get the idea :)