Between Starbucks mobile, Square Wallet, Google Wallet and my Discover Card contactless sticker affixed to the back, I've made a few hundred in-store purchases with my phone.
So smartphone purchase #247 today was hardly remarkable from a UX standpoint. The only thing that would have made my first Apple Pay experience interesting would have been if it failed (resulting in a much more clickable headline for this post). But although it took 3 tries (note 1), the phone finally vibrated (the same as my Nexus) telling me that Apple's NFC magic had indeed triumphed (note 2) adding 1.05 cent to its Q4 numbers (note 3).
And although I firmly believe we are at "peak plastic" for debit/credit cards and payment via the cloud is inevitable, I don't see how Apple Pay adds 15 BPS (or a half-cent for debit) of value to the card-using experience. But to play with Apple you have to pay. And 15 BPS is a lot better than the 30% interchange Apple has collected for the past 6 years on in-app purchases. So I'm not criticizing the rumored economics or the 500 issuers who have signed on. For competitive reasons, you might as well play along (or not, see previous post).
Bottom line: I'm not giving up on plastic, or merchant-specific apps like Starbucks (or MCX?), quite yet. The iPhone/TouchID experience is great, but at this point, it's slightly more cumbersome than plastic (note 4) and costs more if you account for my tendency to drop the phone (note 5).
And Apple Pay's consumer value for in-store purchases will come in the future with more integration between phone, bank and merchant (note 6). Getting customers to give up plastic is all about the three R's: rewards, receipts, and relationships (note 7). Starbucks has nailed it (note 8). Apple has not, yet.
My first Apple Pay in-person transaction
Left: Push notification on top of homescreen
Right: How it looks within the Apple Passbook app
1. The first time I put the phone next to terminal, nothing happened when I authenticated with TouchID. I'm not sure if it was my phone's failure or the cashier failed to ready the charge properly. The second time it connected, but I was declined with a negative "buzz" from the phone. The cashier readied the charge a third time and this one went through with a pleasant vibration and push notification on the screen. These things happen, even when swiping plastic, so I don't hold it against Apple Pay. That said, were I a so-called normal consumer, I probably would have pulled out my plastic and waited for Apple Pay 2.0 next year before trying again.
2. Sadly, I still had to make chicken scratches (aka my signature) on the Verifone display at Bartell Drug for the $6.99 box of tea and also have a paper receipt shoved into my hands. It's not Apple's fault, but it does detract from the overall UX.
3. My $6.99 purchase times the rumored 0.15% interchange rebate to Apple.
4. I've only been using TouchID for a month, but so far, I find it clumsy. I have 3 fingerprints registered, and some work better than others. But overall, I find it can take numerous attempts to get it to authenticate. This is not something I want to experience at the front of the checkout queue. It's bad enough that I'm standing there waving my new $600 gold smartphone at the terminal. I don't need to be holding up the line while I fumble with said device. Once the novelty wears off, I'll probably go back to swiping plastic, at least if there's a queue.
5. In addition, every time I pull my phone out, especially when juggling purchases at the point of sale, there is a chance I'll drop it. And since I detest cases, I crack my screen every year or two. Assuming it costs $100 to fix, and I crack it once every 5 to 10,000 times I handle it, its cost me 1 or 2 cents to use my phone in lieu of plastic.
6. This post is about the physical point of sale. The one-click mobile payment process for Apple Pay-powered shopping carts and apps has immediate and understandable value for both the consumer and merchant.
7. You could argue that the increased security from phone payments will move people off plastic. But consumers still do not trust mobile phone security, for good reason. And they know they are covered for plastic security breaches. So the known threat (plastic) probably trumps the unknown (phone) for the time being.
8. And the Starbucks experience gets better next year when "order ahead" goes national.