One of the more recent trends in technology is the rise of mobile payments, a technology that allows users to pay with their mobile phones.
Google recently released their Android Pay platform, which allows users to tap their NFC-enabled phones at participating retailers to pay, without having to use a debit or credit card. Apple Pay recently expanded to include retailers such as Trader Joe’s and Baskin Robbins.
This technology, while it has been enabled in different ways by outlets including PayPal, has been boosted recently by the rise of Near-Field Communication (NFC) chips that are included with most smartphones. These chips allow for a transfer of information from one device to another by tapping them together.
Google initially deployed this technology with its Google Wallet product released in 2011, which allowed users to upload their credit/debit cards to their Wallet account and then use NFC technology at checkout to pay for goods. This technology failed to catch on, however, as Google did not secure enough partnerships with retailers for the product to become mainstream. Another contributing factor was the dominance of Apple in the smartphone industry in the U.S., which meant that, for many, they were walled off from using the product on their device.
Apple released their own mobile payment service, called “Apple Pay,” in late 2014. This technology, which is enabled for the iPhone as well as the Apple Watch, allows for many of the same perks as Google Wallet did. The exception, however, is that Apple secured more partnerships for Apple Pay than Google did with its Wallet platform. At the time of launch, Apple Pay was supported by 220,000 vendors and within three days, had over 1 million cards registered on its service.
The mobile payment services have also simplified in-app purchases and online purchases, making it as simple as a one-click motion to purchase products online. One such example of this implementation of the technology is within the Uber app. Users can enable their Apple Pay or Android Pay so that when they go to hail an Uber car, they can just utilize their preferred method of payment as specified in their mobile payment provider’s app.
Another service that was recently announced is Samsung’s Samsung Pay application, which enables the NFC chip payment technology for their Galaxy line of phones. For Samsung, a company that has often been criticized for following Apple’s lead, this proves no different. The technology works similarly to Apple’s Apple Pay, but it (like Google Wallet) does not have the same level of support from retailers.
The importance of mobile payments falls mainly under convenience, though it also brings with it certain security benefits. Apple Pay can be enabled so that it requires a fingerprint (all iPhones generation five or later contain a fingerprint sensor) to allow a payment, which makes it considerably more secure than a four-number pin. It also guards from card theft in the form of copying the magnetic stripe, which is the black stripe on the back of a card that enables it to make payments.
Many criminals steal the pattern of the magnetic swipe, which makes it very easy for them to then go and sell these data in bulk on black market websites where criminals purchase this data. According to TransUnion.com, 19 people fall victim to identity theft per minute. Industry experts suggest that millennials may have their credit card data stolen, on average, twice in their lives.
With the widespread support from financial services companies and retailers, it is clear that mobile payments are a trend in the technology and finance industries. Whether this will be a major improvement or just a convenient change is yet to be decided.