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Wednesday, 10 September 2014 10:04

Apple ignores established contactless payment markets

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Just because Australians love iPhones and contactless payments, that doesn't mean all three go together in Apple's eyes.

As predicted, Apple introduced an NFC payments mechanism with the iPhone 6.

Apple Pay takes advantage of the Touch ID fingerprint system, and it will also be available to iPhone 5 owners if they also use an Apple Watch.

The bizarre thing about the announcement is that Apple Pay is only going to be available in the US when it is introduced as an iOS 8 update in October.

While contactless payments aren't unknown in the US, the mechanism is far from commonplace. Wouldn't it have made much more sense to launch Apple Pay in a market where contactless payments are already an everyday occurrence, such as Australia?

It's not as if our financial institutions and retailers aren't interested in this sort of thing. In early 2014, Commonwealth Bank introduced an iOS app that works with a pay tag (a reduced size credit card that attaches to the back of a iPhone) for contactless payments.

And in July 2014, Coles introduced its Mobile Wallet for iOS and Android, combining payment and Flybuys capability, again using a pay tag. This followed a 2013 trial of the pay tag technology.

So iTWire asked Apple what is preventing the immediate introduction of Apple Pay in Australia, and which local banks have been approached and showed interest.

The answer: "We have no further details at this time."

That's a shame, because it looks as if Apple may have got contactless payments right.

The problem with 'tap and go' transactions is that there's no more security than there is with cash - if someone has the card (or pay tag, assuming the account hasn't been disabled via the app), they can make a purchase.

Making payments from a suitably equipped Android phone is cumbersome: from what we've seen of systems such as Google Wallet that use a phone's built-in NFC functionality, the sequence is unlock the phone, run the app, select the card, make the payment.

But because Apple Pay integrates with Passbook, it appears that you can leave the card selected on the lock screen, then pay by holding your finger on the fingerprint sensor and tapping the phone, thus gaining convenience and security.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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