Apple Pay became available to users in October 2014, and already, we have a worthy alternative mobile payment app to it – the Samsung Pay, which has released with the latest Galaxy flagship phones. In today’s discussion, we will analyze which of the two applications is better, on the basis of certain vital parameters.
You have got to hand it to Apple and Samsung for continuing with, and in fact, expanding their professional rivalry. As has been the norm over the years, the battle between the latest smartphones of the companies (iPhone 6/6 Plus and Galaxy S6/S6 Edge respectively) is going strong – and the tussle between the tech giants has now spilled over to the domain of contactless payments (i.e., mobile payments) too.
Samsung announced its mobile payment platform – Samsung Pay – at this year’s Mobile World Congress, barely six months after Tim Cook had let everyone know about Apple Pay (last September). Apple Pay debuted on iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch, while the Korean company included Samsung Pay in the Galaxy S6/S6 Edge handsets. In this Samsung Pay vs Apple Pay battle for superiority, which one comes out on top? Let’s do a point-by-point comparison:
- Compatibility – To start things off, let’s see on which devices users would be able to avail the services of the two mobile payment channels. As was widely expected by software and mobile app developers worldwide, Samsung Pay is ONLY available on the latest Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. The device compatibility of Apple Pay is rather limited too, since users who own the iPhone 6/6 Plus, or are early adopters of Apple Watch, can make payments with it. Both of these are proprietary software, unlike Visa Checkout or the proposed Android Pay platform. Apple Pay has the advantage of arriving earlier at the market, but the difference would hardly matter in the long-run.
- Security – Once again, there is nothing to choose between the two. The process of generating random numerical values by Samsung Pay and Apple Pay (‘tokenization’) ensures that the actual card details never get disclosed to the merchants and sellers. According to experts from the domain of mobile transactions and app development, ‘hacking’ card details is virtually impossible when payments are made via either of the two platforms. There is, in fact, a school of thought that mobile payment channels like these will gradually eat into the popularity of traditional credit card usage.
- Setting up the apps and adding cards – The edge lies marginally with the product from the Cupertino company here. There is no difference in the card registration/addition procedure on Apple Pay and Samsung Pay – it can be done either via scanning cards with the camera, or simply typing in their unique number and expiration date. However, there is a difference when it comes to accessing the cards for payments. To use Samsung Pay, an upward screen swipe (from the bottom) is required. On the other hand, whenever the latest flagship iPhone is in the vicinity of a contactless reader, the card details immediately appear on its lock screen. No extra swiping involved!
- Retailer support – Trust the two persistently warring tech giants to gather plenty of retailer support for their ambitious mobile payment channels. Within 72 hours of Apple Pay being available for iPhone-owners, more than a million cards were reportedly registered on it. The total number of retailers supporting Apple Pay stands in excess of 200000, with most American banks and credit card companies having pledged support to it. On its part, Samsung has announced that nearly 31 million retail companies already have the setup to support Samsung Pay transactions. The key factor here is: iPhone 6 is already a hit, giving a cushion to Apple Pay. To become a success, Samsung Pay will be heavily reliant on how well (or otherwise) the Galaxy S6 phones fare.
- Tracking transaction history – Apple does not, in any way track or store the details of the transactions conducted via Apple Pay. Mobile software analysts and iOS app developers feel that this eases a major security concern from the minds of users. Neither is any transaction data provided to third-party retailers. Samsung also refrains from tracking user-purchase and transaction history. Given that it is still early days for mobile payment technology, its main rival is Apple Inc., and there is still some apprehension among people about using these platforms – the Korean tech giant can hardly afford to slip up in this regard.
- NFC and more – Wherever Apple Pay works, Samsung Pay works. The reason is simple enough: both the mobile payment gateways support near-field communication (NFC), which makes transactions quick, hassle-free and completely secure. The fact that Android-users had a feel of NFC before Apple finally got around to it on the iPhone 6 is a point in Samsung’s favor (since Android-users are more familiar with the technology). Samsung Pay offers yet another advantage too – it can also be used on magnetic credit card readers (Magnetic Secure Transmission, or MST). Since there are many retailers who have not adopted NFC yet, the reach of Apple Pay can remain limited. Samsung, however, has the software for point-of-sale terminal usage.
- Ease of usage – Apple Pay keeps things brief and systematic. All that iPhone or Watch-users have to do to use it is select the card for payment on the screen, and authenticate it via fingerprint sensor. The fingerprint sensor feature of the Galaxy S6/S6 Edge phones is central to the use of Samsung Pay as well. Users have to tap their phone screen at the magnetic strip of the merchant or the contactless card reader – which is an extra step. What’s more, many mobile app development experts as well as general users have reported that it is rather troublesome to hold devices in the ‘correct’ way over the magnetic stripe readers. Handing over the Android handset to the merchants is, understandably, not an option that finds favor among users. The difference is not much, but Apple Pay is just a tad simpler to use.
- A bit more about MST – Samsung Pay offers MST payment support over and above the NFC technology. This, in theory, should give it an advantage over Apple Pay (As we have pointed out earlier). What’s more, Samsung would, in all likelihood, move to the developing nations with its mobile payment platform – and in these countries, magnetic card readers are still way more popular among retailers than the NFC setup. In fact, Samsung had acquired LoopPay in mid-February to ensure that it did not need NFC for remaining functional. However, the Magnetic Secure Transmission has also been hailed by many iOS developers as a piece of outdated technology. Particularly in the United States, this extra feature won’t give any additional leverage to Samsung Pay over Apple Pay.
- Provision for in-app purchases – This one is a serious advantage in favor of Apple Pay. The terminal can be used for in-app purchase transactions, on freemium applications in the iPhone 6 phones, iPad Mini 3, and iPad Air 2. Those who are making payments via MST on Samsung Pay cannot use the platform for any form of in-app purchases – since the technology supports only older terminals. There is some uncertainty over whether Samsung Pay with NFC will be usable with general Android applications.
- Partnership with credit card companies – Both Samsung Pay and Apple Pay are already working in partnership with major players like MasterCard, Visa and American Express. From the perspective of the users, this means that cards will be automatically accessible and usable on either of the two applications, once they have been registered. However, Apple enjoys a first-mover’s advantage here, since it has already entered into tie-ups with close to 120 major financial institutions (including Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup). It remains to be seen how many, and how quickly, Samsung Pay is able to get into partnerships with the same leading financial institutions. One thing is clear though: it is a win-win scenario for credit card companies.
- Availability on wearable gadgets – Apple provides it, Samsung (as yet) does not. Android app development professionals worldwide feel that the next generation of Galaxy Gear devices would have Samsung Pay – but till then, the mobile payment app is available only on the recently released Galaxy S6/S6 Edge. Apple Pay, on the other hand, is available for use on Apple Watch – the company’s first smartwatch. As per early reports, using Apple Pay on Watch is extremely easy. Until Samsung Pay becomes available on its wearable gadgets, it will be at a slight backfoot.
- Geographical reach – The need to pick one from Apple Pay and Google Pay is an option that is available only to American users at present – since United States is the only country where both the mobile payment technologies are available. Apple Pay is, in fact, available only in the US, while Samsung Pay can be used for making payments in USA and…no surprises here…Korea. The advantage of geographical reach, however slight, lies with Samsung.
- Backward support – Apple Pay requires NFC, and hence, it is not (and will never be) usable on older iPhones (iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 owners will miss out). Similarly, Samsung has not revealed any plans till now of pre-installing the Samsung Pay app on the predecessors of the Galaxy S6 phones. Mobile application developers feel that, with backend support – both Apple Pay and Samsung Pay would have had higher adoption rates.
- Can Samsung Pay hurt Apple Pay adoption? – Even though the fight is apparently between the mobile payment platforms of the two companies, the competition is – in essence – not directly against each other. Android users are not likely to switch over to iOS simply due to the features of Apple Pay (neither is the opposite scenario likely). If Samsung Pay indeed becomes popular and Apple Pay keeps growing – they will contribute together to the growth of NFC technology in particular, and mobile payments overall.
In a recent comparison study, LoopPay beat Google Wallet hands-down, indicating that Samsung Pay (which comes with Infineon security assurance) is indeed an easy-to-use, secure and efficient mobile payment application. George Wallner and Will Graylin have ensured that the app is comparable to Apple Pay. While the robust sales of iPhone 6/6Plus phones have given a headstart to Apple Pay, its adoption is still sluggish (85% of iPhone 6-users are yet to give Apple Pay a try) – and even if Galaxy S6/S6 Edge sells equally well, the early adoption of Samsung Pay will not be very high. All things considered, Apple Pay holds the aces over Samsung Pay – thanks to its earlier arrival and popularity of the supported devices. Samsung Pay has plenty of high points too (in the short-run, the MST support can be a game-changer), and over time, has the potential to become equally popular.
The final winner? Contactless payments!
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