When Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook revealed its physical wallet-replacement service last September, I recall a tut and an eye roll at yet another Apple product announcement. A form of contactless payment, re-marketed as a physical wallet-replacement service, would be with us this summer.
Where's the innovation in that?
In many ways Apple is starting to seem like the comedian Michael McIntyre, buoyed by exuberance and ego, fuelled by past association and glory (his Daddy wrote for Kenny Everett you know), but still able to keep us enthralled.
McIntyre and Apple execute a formula that sickeningly works if you are into mimicry; imitation and replaying back the usual and ordinary with fanfare and wizardry. Everything they do intended to make the audience feel like what is in front of them is so new and fresh that we all remain in a constant embryonic state of awe.
Like Mr McIntyre, Apple's management are guardians over a brand that seemingly can do no real wrong. The Apple brand is the case study of choice for any marketer or studier thereof. But we have seen through their formula – the simple packaging up of things already created, like a '70s mother-in-law joke, Apple Pay is not really new.
In a post-Jobs world Apple is at best becoming a fourth-mover, pushing out ‘innovations’ that are in fact anything but. Near field payment has been available in the UK since 2011, Sony, Samsung, Google and pretty much every high street bank have had the hardware and capability in near field tech to land contactless, and most have been there already, to some degree.
Google Wallet went there but, as ever, a lack of critical mass and a convoluted service meant that it has been refined to a niche gifting and voucher offering. Other operators such as EE ‘Cash-on-Tap’ and Vodafone ‘Smartpass’ already exist while Android Pay and Samsung Pay are due to launch this autumn. None of these players have really had the PR impact that Apple are enjoying.
And the PR will surely reflect how few problems Apple Pay has relative to those who have gone before it, precisely because of its position in the queue to come to market.
We in the UK already have over 60 million contactless cards in circulation with more than 50 million transactions taking place each month, as well as a critical mass of locations that have the tech’ in place ready to go.
All that means at launch there were 2.9 million compatible locations in high street stores from Marks & Spencers and Boots to Wagamama’s.
So, now is the time. Apple have packaged it up neatly, bolted the offering onto the existing eco-system and boom, leaders in contactless payment they will be.
Apple are loved, they are big, simple, uncomplicated and provide solutions so inoffensive and integrated that despite an innate human desire to not put all our apples in one basket it becomes unavoidable.
Like involuntarily chortling at a McIntyre gag about your ‘Mrs’, you don’t want to do it. But resistance is futile.