March 15, 2016

441 words 3 mins read

Android Pay shows Apple how it's done

The latest front in the ongoing Apple vs Google mobile war is payments. Apple with the sadly named Apple Pay (Let’s be honest, everyone was hoping for iPay) and Google with Android Pay. Both have their own unique sets of pros and cons, but function in a mostly similar fashion. However, if they aren’t that drastically different, can one really be “better” than the other? Yes, and for a surprisingly simple reason.

Using Android Pay in a real world shopping scenario boils down to: unlock phone, hold over payment terminal. This screencap on the left is a very accurate portrayal of Android Pay in action. It’s simple, quick and has been extremely reliably for me. When I say “reliable” it means that I’ve experienced 100% success rate paying with my phone all the while maintaining a 0% awkward rate.

Awkward rate? Why does Awkward matter? Well, take a look at the sample on the right of Apple Pay in action. The key difference is why Android Pay wins in my book: Apple Pay requires you actively produce your fingerprint WHILE the phone is within range of the payment terminal. My iPhone 6 Plus had a good fingerprint reader, but it would still fail about 30% of the time. It also delays the payment process while getting your fingerprint (about a half second to one second in length, depending on how good the scan was). I had more than a few attempts to pay where the fingerprint scanner wouldn’t read, wouldn’t read fast enough, or the phone would drift out of range while attempting to “get in position”.

Anytime you’re in line and fail to pay, it’s awkward. Anytime you sitting there screwing around with your phone while other people are staring at you thinking “For the love of god, I have things to do”, it’s awkward. So either the payment fails because you can’t get the fingerprint scanner to work or you give up after an attempt (maybe two) and grab your credit card. After paying with Apple Pay a few times, I was always nervous about using it.

Flip back to Android Pay, which I was using on my new Nexus 6P, and it hasn’t so much as faltered once. Since Android Pay only requires the phone already be unlocked, there is no need to screw around with how you’re holding the phone. This is critical since most payment terminals are placed conveniently for credit card swipe & signatures — not for holding phones over them. It seems like the smallest of nits between the two systems, but it has made a huge difference in my use of contactless payments.