Apple Pay is here, so why does Europe have to wait?

Story highlights

  • Apple introduced its iPhone-linked payment system at its iPhone 6 launch
  • But Apple Pay's rollout is initially only in the U.S., despite demand in Europe and Asia
  • Stuart Miles says one reason might be Europe's established use of contactless payment
  • But, now Apple is involved, the industry will likely get a big boost
The days of Apple just making your favorite gadgets are over. The company is about to enter the payments services arena taking on PayPal, Google, Facebook, Amazon and others in offering a way to allow you to pay using their system.
One of Apple's big plays at its event in Cupertino was a fingerprint scanner for the newest iPhones, which will allow shoppers to ditch the magnetic strip when they shop in store. But the initial rollout of Apple Pay, in October, is only in the U.S.
European and Asian banking systems are already embracing contactless payment, so it's strange Apple has chosen to focus on its home turf of America first rather than push for an immediate global release.
It means customers outside of the U.S. won't yet benefit from the new features, and puts Apple in a situation whereby if it doesn't move quickly, customers will be happy enough with a card that has the same powers instead.
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Apple Pay emulates your wallet digitally, and will work with a number of retail stores and banks in the U.S. to allow you to pay with your phone, or in the future your watch.
But rather than gear a system towards skimming off the top, or trying to understand users' buying behavior, Apple is -- presumably -- making the move to sell more devices.
Apple was very clear in telling those that watched its event that it won't track or store information about where you shop, what you buy, or how much those purchases cost.
Apple's pitch was about empowering the banks and stores.
Its decision to roll out in the U.S. first could be because the need isn't so great elsewhere. In the UK, many banks now offer contactless payment cards as standard, while Chip and Pin, rolled out across Europe some time ago, has also been incredibly successful in reducing over the counter fraud.
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It could also be about Europe's limit on contactless payments. Trying to explain that you can only use your phone for small purchases is a complicated sell and one that means you aren't likely to ditch your bank cards altogether. In the U.S., there is no limit.
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But will Apple's delay in rolling the service out elsewhere allow others to capitalize on the gap in the market? Having seen Apple's new system up close, it is unlikely.
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However, Apple's decision to finally jump into the NFC tap-to-pay arena now legitimizes the experience and will only accelerate the adoption of the technology.
Is an idea that Visa Europe shares. Steve Perry, the company's chief digital officer, said Apple's entry to the market represents a critical piece of the mobile payments jigsaw. He called it a "pivotal moment" for digital payments, demonstrating the "momentum behind mobile and contactless services."
It might have taken seven years to get here, but he said Apple's decision to enter the market "reflects the scale of opportunity that exists in digital payments today." Apple's support will drive usage of contactless services around the world and he anticipates what he calls a "halo effect" benefiting all mobile payments players.
That might sound an exaggeration, but so far contactless payments have very much been a chicken and egg scenario.
Companies have waited for mobile phone manufacturers to get on board, and mobile phone makers have delayed getting on board because of a lack of infrastructure.
Apple clearly believes that in the U.S. at least, that tipping point has been reached. With the introduction of TouchID last year, Apple had the right technology in place to make it a decent proposition to the banks on the security front.
And with Apple now involved, European and Asian banks will no doubt be knocking on the Cupertino-based company's door begging to be involved.