Ittai Barzilay, writing on the state of mobile payments this Black Friday:
We found Apple Pay usage at its lowest rate since we’ve started tracking it, being used for only 2.7% of Apple Pay-eligible transactions. This is a fairly marked decrease from what we saw last year on Black Friday, when iPhone 6 owners used Apple Pay for 4.9% of eligible transactions at participating merchants.
I take this survey data with a grain of salt. Can we project reliable sales stats from “300,000 Americans submitting pictures of receipts through apps on their smartphones”?
But the decline of mobile payments feels right, based on my own experience. Apple Pay seems like a fun tech demo with no practical upside.
Apple Pay doesn’t let me ditch my wallet. Whether I pay with plastic or with Apple Pay, I need both my phone and my billfold. For credit card transactions, the wallet stores my cards, and the phone lets me log the purchase in our family’s budgeting app. With Apple Pay, I need the phone to make the purchase, but I also need the wallet to store the paper receipt.
Even if I didn’t need a place to keep receipts, I would need my wallet to drive to the store. Phones can’t (yet?) replace driver’s licenses—or half a dozen other ID cards I use frequently.
Apple Pay doesn’t simplify the payment process. At our local grocery store, phone-based transactions require thumbprint authentication and a signature. Maybe these kiosks were misconfigured, or maybe Shop ‘N’ Save is just overly cautious. But if I still have to sign—plus provide my fingerprint—how is Apple Pay any more convenient?
Apple Pay is unreliable. When the nearest supermarket added NFC-enabled kiosks earlier this year, I was eager to try out phone-based payments. But Apple Pay rarely works as advertised; I touch the device to the terminal again and again, hoping that it registers. Often, the payment fails to go through at all. The clerk rolls her eyes, customers behind me tap their feet, and I stand there like an idiot, waving my phone through the air.
Urbanites who don’t drive—and don’t need to carry their driver’s licenses—may love Apple Pay. I imagine them swishing happily along from Starbucks to McDonald’s, effortlessly thumbing their way across the city. They’re walletless and free.
But, based on the Black Friday survey quoted above, most iPhone users agree with me: Apple Pay is kind of useless.