Apple Pay – Ripe or Rotten?

Copyright: Flickr, Wicker_Man

Copyright: Flickr, Wicker_Man

Along with the forthcoming iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch (the first two I’m indifferent about, the third I feel excited about as a runner), Apple have unveiled the system that may well revolutionise how we pay for everything: Apple Pay. Though digital pay systems aren’t new, Apple are fully aware that sometimes it’s not what you do but it’s the way that you do it, and have as such delivered what seems to be the most compelling form of payment so far in terms of both design and practicality.

However, its actual implementation doesn’t strike me as something that will automatically be widespread. Firstly, it will only be compatible with the new products mentioned above. Secondly, it may not be a majority of the buyers of those products that opt to use the system. The reason for that is perhaps akin to my initial instincts regarding Apple Pay.

Firstly, it doesn’t seem safe. The product management vice president at Voltage Security, Mark Bower, has pointed out that we need ‘to move on from vulnerable static credit card numbers and magnetic stripes to protected versions of data’. In fact, widespread expert opinion is that by generating a unique payment code with every transfer involving Apple Pay, and ensuring that only through fingerprint recognition can payment be made off any one device, Apple may be paving the way for a far more secure method of payment than the chip-and-pin and current mobile payments we’re familiar with now.

But even accounting for these safety measures, I don’t know to what extent I’m convinced. Whilst safe for the meantime, the challenge to criminal hackers to attempt to penetrate the system may mean that if possible, and if technology is developed to the point that the Apple Pay system could be taken advantage of by hacking, the consequences would be catastrophic.

Its next problem – it doesn’t seem like it will last. Citing my lack of confidence in use above, I initially felt a bit uneasy about the appeal and sustainability of the Apple Pay model. Yet big names attaching themselves to Apple Pay as backers of the project have included McDonalds, Subway, Disney and Staples. Furthermore, over one hundred million iPhone 5 units have been sold since its release in September 2012. If iPhone 6 can compete with that success, even if not all buyers utilise Apple Pay, it may still achieve considerable success as a leader in the technology.

However, some big names have taken the opposing route and have distanced themselves from Apple Pay, including American companies Best Buy and Wal-Mart, who are backing Merchant Customer Exchange instead. AT&T have noted that this year’s demand for the iPhone 6 has already exceeded the demand of its fifth generation predecessors, so perhaps its backers have picked the right side.

But beyond that, it leaves me feeling a little cold. It may be an overreaction, but I can’t help feeling this is another triumph for a society that may want to be purely consumer-oriented. As with self-service checkouts at supermarkets, the ability to whittle down vast would-be bulky information into tiny devices and the reduced need to rely on one another, Apple Pay may not be a true symbol of dependence upon other people. In one episode of Charlie Brooker’s ‘Black Mirror’ series, ‘Fifteen Million Merits’, the concept of earning and spending money is reduced to be simply akin to a game on an app in a consumer-fixated-dystopian-society. Perhaps it’s an overreaction on my part to compare the two concepts, but an instinct nonetheless.

The Apple Pay systems seems broadly secure and may have the potential for success as with most Apple products, but all the same I will wait and see if the effects it brings about leave us better off.

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