The e-wallet market is hotting up. Apple Pay has just been made available in the UK, Samsung Pay is due out in September, Google Wallet is undergoing a re-brand to become Android Pay and Barclays’ bPay service has expanded following last year’s launch.
The range of services on offer leaves consumers with a difficult choice to make, so we’ve taken a look at what makes each service stand out.
One of the first things to be aware of is that not all of the e-payment options will be compatible with your particular smartphone or bank. Apple Pay, for example, works with the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Apple Watch-compatible devices, iPad Air 2, and the iPad Mini 3. But if you’re an Android fan, that’s probably not going to be much use. Both Barclays Bank and Lloyds Bank also won’t work with Apple Pay, with the latter not offering support until later this year.
Samsung Pay is even more restrictive, only working with Samsung’s own Galaxy S6 smartphone – even the company’s smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear isn’t supported. On the other hand, Google Wallet, soon-to-be Android Pay, should work with all Android 4.4 KitKat and later handsets, providing they have NFC chips.
Barclays bPay, perhaps the offering most distinct from the other three, lets you use any bank card and indeed any device, but you must first purchase either a bPay wristband (£24.99), fob (£19.99), or sticker (£14.99).
The key differences
Looking at the main characteristics of each service, Apple Pay certainly has simplicity as one of its plus points. Users simply have to add their bank card to the platform and make sure their Apple Watch, if they have one, is synced with their iPhone.
They are then able to make purchases in shops, within apps or across London transport services. Using the iPhone involves touching the handset against a contactless reader, tapping the Touch ID sensor and then waiting for payment to be authorised. Apple Watch users double-click the side button and hold the face of the wearable to the contactless reader.
For the most part, Samsung Pay is expected to work in a similar way, but has one major advantage over Apple Pay, in the US at least. Samsung Pay will be compatible with magnetic card readers (the ones where you swipe your card) which are still prevalent with American retailers. Although this won’t provide much benefit in the UK, it could help Samsung grow its market share.
Google Wallet may not have gained much market traction during its three years on the market, but there are higher hopes for Android Pay. The re-branded service will require users to enter a lock-screen password, whether that’s a pattern, pin or face unlock before payment. While this may sound cumbersome, early previews have seen some users claim that this is faster than Apple’s fingerprint sensor, mainly because Touch ID can fail to recognise the user’s fingerprints at first. Google is also promising a number of loyalty programmes with Android Pay, but its biggest advantage is simply the number of compatible handsets that it works with.
Barclays bPay, on the other hand, works very differently to the other services on offer. Users can top up their bPay account with any bank card, using an app that is available on both Android and iOS, up to a maximum of £200. They then have to purchase a wristband, key fob or sticker, which is most often placed on a smartphone, and they can use contactless terminals wherever they are.
The e-wallet market is clearly gathering pace and while some services are likely to fall by the wayside, broadening consumer choice is only going to help the market in its early stages. Much of the success of the respective e-payment platforms will depend on changing user perception rather than any particular technical aspect. People must become more comfortable using their smartphone to pay for things and that is not something that is likely to happen overnight.