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Apple: Bringing NFC to the Mainstream

History has shown us that many people and businesses wait to see what Apple does before committing to a new technology, and we have just witnessed that with regards to mobile payments, and in particular NFC. Whilst there has been a momentum building towards the technology recently, it has never reached the mainstream public, but with Apple’s seal of approval in the form of Apple Pay, that is about to change.

Already, the buzz Apple has generated around Apple Pay and NFC is quite significant, and Cook’s observation that previous mobile payments platforms had failed because they didn’t focus on the customer experience is absolutely right: Apple has made its Pay design interface characteristically straightforward for ordinary people to use, with inherent security which will certainly help drive consumer adoption more than ever before.

In the UK, where contactless payments via bank cards is relatively common (June 2014 saw 23.8 million contactless transactions in the UK), tapping to pay is certainly establishing itself as a de-facto technology for point-of-sale payments.  This is further demonstrated by the fact that popular high street merchants such as Eat and KFC have recently introduced contactless payments alongside a growing number of other retailers, fast food chains and supermarkets. Importantly, TfL’s contactless announcement this week has helped to build on this momentum significantly, and adds to the growing confidence in the technology, giving all merchants more of an impetus to roll out their own solutions and further drive up the use of contactless mobile payments.

The recent celebrity hacking scandal may have tarnished public opinion about the security of Apple’s devices, but smaller brands and retailers should not be discouraged from adopting NFC. Apple is taking security very seriously by using the Secure Element in its phone and watch, and retailers and merchants should feel reassured that NFC is a secure technology.

Apple has opted for a Secure Element solution initially, but the future will most likely see Host Card Emulation (HCE) solutions too, with the two technologies sitting comfortably side by side. HCE is already progressing at a rapid pace and showing huge potential in many markets globally, predominantly on Android smartphones. Whether Secure Element, or HCE, these ‘under the hood’ technologies shouldn’t impact on the user experience across the top, and a consistent user experience is absolutely key to the success of mobile payments, not the underlying technology.

We also shouldn’t rule out Apple using HCE in the future.  Many use cases, such as loyalty, don’t have the same security requirements as payments, and HCE is the ideal technology for such scenarios, on Apple iOS devices as well as Android. 



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