Apple Pay: The Radioplay

I used Apple Pay for the first time earlier this week and wanted to share some thoughts and observations about it, including the transaction itself.

Update: I’ve used Apple Pay twice at McDonalds since writing and editing this episode (my son and I were on the road to and from an airshow). Their transaction experience definitely seemed nicer: no credit or debit and no rewards card. I know they’re optimizing for transaction throughout but it actually results in a nicer experience.

Full transcript:

The other night I had a legitimate excuse to use Apple Pay, a new payment service from Apple that uses near-field communication — or NFC — to use your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus as payment at participating stores. I had been looking for an excuse all week: do I need something from the Apple Store? No not really. Can I make it over to Whole Foods for lunch? It didn’t happen.

The other night was different though: my wife had a cold, and we were all out of nighttime cold medicine. This was at least a plausible reason to head down the street to Walgreens, which just happens to be an Apple Pay store.

I only know that because I looked it up on Apple’s site. Right now there are two signifiers that will tell you if a point of sale system works with apple pay. The first is obvious and involves the Apple logo in black followed by the word Pay. The second signifier is less obvious: it’s sort of the wi-fi symbol on its side in an oval and there’s a hand holding a rectangular chip. That mark, affectionately known as The EMVCo Contactless Indicator is administered by the GSM Association and identifies a point of sale system as compatible with a whole bunch of stuff that you don’t care about as a consumer. As more companies roll out technologies to support Apple pay I imagine we’re going to see this mark more often than the Apple logo.

I wanted to share a couple of thoughts on the experience itself, which was simultaneously magical and almost non-existent. There’s a demo video on Apple’s site if you want to know how it works, but it’s the kind of experience that Apple excels at: you don’t need a demo, you don’t need documentation, it just works the way it should.

[The transaction begins.]

The interesting thing is that while the Apple Pay portion of the transaction happened so quickly that you might miss it — the other night it was a beep and a chime — Apple doesn’t control the rest of the transaction experience. That means that I still had to enter my phone number for my rewards card, and because I had linked up a debit card I had to chose between credit and debit as well on the payment terminal itself.

[The transaction ends.]

Apple Pay is obviously new and novel, but Contactless payments aren’t. This really feels like how we should have been paying for things all along. I’d love to see this same experience applied to giving money to friends or to iOS driven point of sale systems. I’m seeing those a lot these days.

From the future, this is Matt Croydon for the tinycast.
On the web at, on twitter @thetinycast.

Disclaimer: It took me more than one shot one take to get the timing down. It’s not perfect but it’s a close approximation to what I was going for.