Monday, August 28, 2017

ApplePay really is awesome...since every store (in Poland) accepts it

So, though I am generally an Apple fanboy who would buy Apple-branded ice for my igloo, I was a little skeptical about ApplePay when it was released. There just isn't much friction when I use my credit card at a store, so I wasn't quite sure what problem ApplePay was solving. Add to that the fact some banks weren't supporting it (in 2014), and the fact that most US stores don't support it (even now), and ApplePay was relegated, in my mind, to a back burner somewhere between "Ping" and the iPod HiFi (1).

However, that has all changed since I moved to Poland in late 2016. In Poland, nearly every store supports NFC cards, so my ApplePay is crushing it. All the Polish cards have NFC, so people are waving their cards around like, um, cards, but here are a couple of reasons why ApplePay wins:

  1. I have multiple cards on one device, so I can quickly pay for restaurants with my Chase, and other stuff with my Priceline Visa. 
  2. For bigger purchases, everybody with an NFC card has to remember a PIN (and enter it while looking over their shoulders). I just use my thumb on Touch ID, and I'm done. 
  3. Because I can pay for stuff with my phone, which is always with me, I don't need to carry my wallet. One less thing to worry about.
So much winning! (Really!)

I know I'm pretty lucky. I bank in the US, and by 2016 pretty much all banks had started supporting ApplePay, and I'm using ApplePay in Poland, where all the terminals have switched over to NFC. (Polish banks, alas, don't support ApplePay, yet.) But, even if it is just luck, it shows me the potential to live in the future as Apple envisioned it. It shows me how things might be back in the US if NFC takes off for transactions. 

It also shows me another example of a country that gets to jump past established economies because they didn't have entrenched interests. (Poland, being communist until 1989, had largely a cash economy until the early 2000s, I've been told. So, when payment technology popped up here, it didn't have to compete with earlier technology, but instead had to compete only against cash.) (2)

One final thing: I'll address this in a future post, but being able to use ApplePay everywhere will get even better if your watch has a cell connection, and obviates the need for a phone. Going on a run and want to grab a Powerade from Tesco? Yes, please.

(1) Those are deliberate examples, since Ping can be seen as a precursor to the massive Apple Music business, and the iPod HiFi can be seen as the grandfather to the hopefully massive HomePod business. 
(2) On the negative side, I should note that the ubiquity of credit card terminals here is related to early credit card number theft. Waiters always bring the terminal to your table, and never take away the card, because no one trusts anyone to not steal their number. That also pushes the rise of PIN transactions, which haven't really caught on in the US, probably because they solve a problem that most people don't have.