Hands on: Apple Pay review

Update: The Apple Pay launch date, banks and store info has been added to our review.

Apple Pay is somehow both confusing and blindingly simple at the same time.

On the one hand, mobile payments have been around for so long without gaining any traction whatsoever - so how can Apple do anything different?

On the other hand, when you see it in action, this couldn't be a simpler system. Tap the phone or press a button online and you're up and running.

Apple Pay review

The confusion comes in the setup, where you'll be able to add as many credit and debit cards as possible to your Passbook to use at checkout. How do you get them on there? Can you use any of them?

  • Oh look: it's the iPhone 6

That's the bit that's got me for so long. Google Wallet promises to do that in the US, and in the UK various networks have partnered with other credit card providers to try to make this contactless thing work.

Apple Pay review

But forget all that for now. It seems that if (and that's a big if) Apple can bring the solution it showed on stage in Cupertino to the world, it will quickly be the most easy to understand for consumers.

The Apple Pay system seems to have come at the right time. Where there are contactless terminals to pay for things (and there are hundreds of thousands in the UK, with more coming all the time in the US) you only need to select a card from Passbook, hold the phone to the payment terminal, use TouchID to verify your fingerprint and you're done.

I saw it in action a few times, and each time the whole transaction took just a few seconds. It was seamless and easy, with no tapping in your PIN or swiping and signing.

Apple Pay review

It was the easiest way to use your fingerprint to pay for things, one of the most secure out there, without having a scanner on the register itself.

Obviously Apple Pay needs and iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus to work at the moment, as you'll need the NFC chip inside to enable contactless payments.

The Apple Watch can also be used to pay for things in the same manner as above, but the demo guys wouldn't tell me how that worked. Surely you need to press your fingerprint to TouchID to make it work? If so, then you'll have to use a phone... if that's the case, then why bother with the watch?

Or perhaps the Watch will only come into play for low value transactions. That would be cool, although it would need to be tethered to a phone to prevent theft and use.

Online magic

Apple Pay review

The same Apple Pay system works really well online too - although in fairness, it's very similar to PayPal. Both have a dedicated button you can use to pay, and if you're using a phone with a fingerprint scanner then you can use that for verification rather than tapping out a password.

Apple Pay review

The difference here is Apple is much more vertically integrated into the process. Where Samsung has partnered with PayPal, leading to a confusing set up of app downloads and other verifiers at times, Apple Pay should be as simple as setting it up and looking for the logo when you want to hand over cash to a vendor.

That said, I felt it would be that easy with the Samsung Galaxy S5, and I've yet to find that even after all this time - it may have improved since then, but when a consumer loses confidence in a financial app, they're usually not so keen to play around with it.

Availability

Apple Pay review

At its iPad launch event, Apple announced that its coming through on its promise to launch the mobile wallet before the end of October, at least in the US.

The stateside Apple Pay release date is Monday, October 20 and Apple says it has signed 500 banks around the world with some rolling out sooner than others.

Visa, Mastercard and American Express are all here along with Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo and Citi. Saimilar UK Apple Pay launch details are still unknown.

But walk into big-name retailers like Target, Staples, Starbucks and Panera Bread next week and expect to pay without having to lift anything more than a fingerprint.

Apple still hasn't addressed the question: If you only need a fingerprint scan to make it work, will Apple Pay online come to the iPhone 5S as well? After all, it's still on sale in the Apple Store.

Early verdict

I really, really want to use my phone to pay for things. Simple as that. I forget my wallet, I don't forget my phone. And apps to track your spending make it much easier to budget. The notion that we still mess around with paper receipts seems so archaic.

Apple Pay seems to simplify the issue by reaching more agreements with more vendors than ever before. I need to hear more about the rollout plans to be really excited about it, but right now it looks good, and will once again be a good way to lock people into the ecosystem.