Apple Pay is a strange sort of wonderful magic—the kind of tech that makes you feel like you're living in the future. Our Android brethren have had NFC-enabled solutions for years in the form of Google Wallet, but compatible terminals were far and few between.
That's changed: Apple Pay, at launch, is supported in over 220,000 stores and by 34 brands, with more launching by the end of the year. And it's not just random boutique shops and Apple Stores, either—there are big-name retailers and grocery stores on the master launch list.
Earlier today, I hit up the Apple Store, Walgreens, and Whole Foods for a quick tour of the Apple Pay experience. The result? A wholly enjoyable, quick-checkout process that left me wishing for more.
Paying at Apple: No terminal required
Before I left for the Apple Store today, I joked on Twitter that I couldn't actually leave my wallet at home—I was getting a new computer via the company's Personal Pickup service, which requires a photo ID.
I'd love to leave my wallet at home today when I test Apple Pay, but Apple requires a photo ID for in-store pickup. Womp womp.— Serenity Caldwell (@settern) October 21, 2014
So I didn't truly get to live walletless at the store; indeed, the specialist asked for my photo ID almost immediately, though he laughed at my conundrum.
After I'd picked up my computer, I decided to try out in-app Apple Pay by purchasing a few accessories. Rather than use NFC-enabled terminals at the store, Apple has for a few years now offered customers the ability to buy accessories on their iOS devices using the Apple Store app; as of Monday, however, that app uses an Apple Pay button and Touch ID authentication for payment.
As before, you scan an item's barcode in the app to view it; to purchase, you just tap the Apple Pay button in the bottom right corner of the screen. Doing so brings up a bill with the item's cost, tax, and total, along with a Touch ID indicator.
Place your finger on the Touch ID sensor for a few seconds, and the charge will be forwarded to your bank, then (likely) approved. Easy peasy.
Honestly, my biggest roadblock with Apple Pay inside the Apple Store was trying not to feel like I was stealing something—you don't get a physical receipt or a bag, after all.
Paying at Walgreens and Whole Foods: Some kind of magic
After my Apple Store adventure, it was time to purchase items with Apple Pay the way they were meant to be purchased—via NFC terminal. So I hit up the "W"s section of Apple's launch partners list—Walgreens and Whole Foods. (Hey, I needed toothpaste and groceries for dinner—why not test out Apple Pay and get my errands done, too?)
Whole Foods had a big sign in the lobby announcing Apple Pay's existence, though its at-terminal signage was considerably more subdued—a tiny little sticker on top of the NFC-antenna casing.
According to the associate managing the checklane, I was only the second person buying groceries with their iPhone at the counter I visited, but she didn't seem that fazed.
The actual process was simple as can be: I took my phone and waved it briefly about six inches away from the terminal; the Touch ID prompt appeared and I held my thumb to it for a moment; and I pressed a single key on the keypad indicating I wanted to run my debit card as credit. With that, I got my receipt and was good to go.
To the walletless future!
Wireless payments really do feel like science-fiction. It's almost too simple—I felt like I was getting away with something using my iPhone over the swipe-ID check-signature-receipt rigamarole I've often gone through.
I'm going to be using Apple Pay as much as possible from here on out to see if it's actually something I can integrate into my daily routine, though I'm still not quite sure what to do about my license. I doubt many package stores or pubs will take photocopies of my driver's license or passport, so I'm still tied to some form of wallet. But as of now, I'm going to stop carrying all payment cards but one and see if I can manage without them.
What about you, folks? Is Apple Pay a gimmick or something you're going to seriously use? Sound off below.