I am an Apple dork. Some might say an Apple slave. I’m not proud. But it’s true: iPhone, AppleTV, Apple Music, Apple iMac, iPad, I have the whole suite. When it was announced on Tuesday that Apple Pay is now available in Canada to Royal Bank and CIBC cardholders, I did not rejoice or geek out. I simply pulled out my iPhone and began inputting my bank card information. Call it my Cupertino Reflex.
That night, I got a chance to try out Apple Pay when my five-year-old asked if we could ride bikes to McDonald’s for dinner. My wife might normally have said no, but I remembered that McD’s, along with Tim Hortons and Canadian Tire, are among the retailers already accepting Apple Pay in Canada. “That’s a great idea!” I said, before she could object. Happy Meals for everyone!
Everything went swimmingly until I was instructed to complete my payment. I fumbled for my iPhone. I had to use the thumb reader to first unlock it and then open the Wallet app. How many seconds had gone by? I felt sure I was holding up the line. Once inside the app I toggled between my Visa and debit card (and, oddly, an old ticket for a Neutral Milk Hotel concert that had been lurking in the app for the last two years). I finally selected my Visa, pointed my phone at the reader and….
Nothing. Nothing happened.
There was a moment of minor confusion as I wondered if the problem was on my end or Apple’s or Ronald McDonald’s. Deciding it was a bust, I put my phone away and reached into my actual wallet for my actual Visa card. Back at the table, as my son broke open the toy from his meal, I realized I hadn’t “verified” my cards. For that, I needed to download a second RBC Wallet app and confirm that I wanted to link my cards to Apple Pay. It was annoying, but simple enough. I ended up using Apple Pay to buy a couple of ice cream sundaes with far less drama.
It’s hard to imagine what the value of Apple Pay will be for most people. I already pay for most purchases by tapping my Visa or bank debit card, and it’s difficult to imagine how that could be more convenient. With Apple Pay I had to unlock my phone, launch the Wallet app, select the right card, and point the device at a payment reader while holding my finger over the home button. It felt slow. But then I learned I could set my phone to open Apple Pay with a double-tap of the home button. Now I was cooking. I gave it a try at the cafeteria at lunchtime. I simply double-tapped my phone and held my thumb in place to complete the sale. It was fast. Crazy fast. I’d even say it was alarmingly fast. The screen flashed some purchase details, but honestly they disappeared so quickly my brain didn’t have time to process what had happened. I checked the app purchase history to confirm it had worked correctly. Was it faster than pulling out my wallet and tapping my card? Yes, I think so. But also more awkward. Paying with my phone will take some getting used to.
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To be honest, the most exciting aspect of Apple Pay for me is its potential for in-app and online purchases. Apple Pay stores your billing and shipping info along with your card. The potential to buy a pair of Gap jeans online and, without having to squint through drop-down menus and address fields, breeze through the checkout process is more thrilling than I’d care to admit. And if Apple Pay can make the process of buying concert tickets through Ticketmaster less painful I will become a loyal user. It’s also more secure. Someone who steals my wallet can easily tap their way across town with my cards, but someone who steals my phone still needs my fingerprint to confirm a purchase. Moreover, Apple Pay’s encryption methods are such that your actual card number is not shared or stored by any party (including Apple). That’s nice.
So when I say it’s hard to imagine what the value of Apple Pay will be, I say that fully aware that this is what I said about Apple Music last year. And Apple TV in 2010. And iPads the same year. And iPhones in 2007. And iPods in 2001. I ended up using every one of those technologies on a near-daily basis. The lesson is: Don’t bet against Apple. Canadian banks certainly haven’t.