If you have not yet heard, Apple has recently implemented new technology aimed at revolutionizing even the most basic daily transaction: payment. With a new feature being heralded on the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus called Apple Pay, there is undoubtedly a new threshold for other technological entities to cross through. In this article, I will cover how Apple Pay works, and more importantly, what this could mean for the entire field of tech.
Apple Pay is completely reliant upon Near-Field Communications (hereafter solely referred to as NFC), a technology that, put simply, allows two nearby pieces of electronic equipment to speak with each other. NFC saw its birth in the early 1990’s, but it has not really evolved into the most accessible or popular form of communications.
Anyways, how exactly will you be able to use it? Well, I’m glad you asked. To partake in this service, you will need either the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. This is because these are the only two iPhones that have the NFC capabilities that are required. The second step is loading your credit or debit card information onto your device. This process is simplified by simply taking a picture of the card. No other phone on the market has the ability to do this seemingly simple process of loading card information, and it is likely due to the fact that banks are not willing to open up to any company other to Apple on this level of intimacy.
However, after government-surveillance programs and the constant breaches of security as of late, what would make you okay with storing such sensitive data? Tokenization. Tokenization is prominent in this process. Put simply, tokenization takes your sensitive 16-digit card number, and your own bank replaces it with a randomized datum with similar if not identical format. Whenever you scan your phone, the reader will only see your “token”, or the randomized card number. Because of this, any breaches of security will only be able to access the tokens, rather than the real card numbers. This is different from services like Google Wallet, which stores your card data. With Apple Pay, the only entity that will ever have access to your card information is you (and your bank, of course). Apple never has access to that information.
Furthermore, your device account number (the common name for your tokenized token), is stored in your secure element. This is pretty much the top-level, maximum-security prison for sensitive information. Again, to handle questions of breaches, take into consideration that even if the most experienced hacker could tap into your secure element, even then he would solely have a token, rather than your card number. Nearly all merchants require the presence and usage of a secure element in order for that bank, for example, to support your contact-less payment.
The next major perk is the fact that Apple is known for simplifying the user experience. This is obvious when you compare services like Apple Pay to services like Google Wallet. Even though Google Wallet made its début over three years ago, the service is still far more complex and difficult to use. Here you have the relatively laborious process of manually entering numbers after numbers, and even when you need to access or pay with your card, only a select number of phones can actually use both NFC and a secure element. If your Android phone only has one of the two, you will not be able to use your Google Wallet. But let us say, simply for conversation’s sake, that your Android phone is one of the select few that has both. Well, here comes the inconvenience: you will still have to access them by either one or more manually-entered passwords.
With Apple, they have made the security verification process even more secure, and seamless: with Touch ID. Now you have an incredibly secure process with the presence of the secure element, and fingerprint verification. It doesn’t get much more secure. Since Apple Pay was announced, just days ago, over 220 thousand retailers will support it, including McDonald’s, Macy’s, Starbucks, Nordstrom, and much more. All you can expect over the next few months and years is for that number to sky rocket.
Apple has yet again revolutionized another popular concept (see: cell phone, music player, or desktop computers for more info on past revolutions). Apple Pay is here to stay, it is a brilliant investment in the future. All we can do now is sit back and wonder, what’s next? You can also expect this technology to become implemented on the Apple Watch in early 2015. Step aside Google Wallet, step aside Softcard, and Paypal can be laid to rest. Apple Pay is the brilliant new technology of the future in payments.