(KhaleejTimes)– As promised during Apple’s results briefing in August, Apple Pay today expanded to the UAE, Finland, Denmark and Sweden. Six UAE banks – Emirates NBD, Mashreq, RAKBank, Emirates Islamic, HSBC and Standard Chartered – are the first to offer Apple Pay in the country, supported by Visa and MasterCard. Telecommunication provider du is also on board.
The mobile wallet and digital payment service of the world’s most recognisable tech company are finally here.
The UAE is the perfect country for contactless payments, with users moving more towards credit and debit card use and an infrastructure that affords contactless payment acceptance at a substantial number of merchants. In addition, the country is a large and growing market for Apple devices.
“With the rollout of Apple Pay, we believe more consumers will be encouraged to use and accept contactless payments in the UAE,” Jennifer Bailey, vice-president of Internet services, Apple Pay, told Khaleej Times in a telephone interview.
“Recent studies have indicated that card spending has increased substantially in the last couple of years – one of the key signs of acceleration towards a cashless environment,” she added.
And Bailey further reminds us: “Moving towards cashless transactions is part of the UAE’s e-government strategy.”
Apple Pay, which was launched on October 20, 2014, started off with just six partner banks in the United States. Today, that number has ballooned to more than 4,000 globally, with over 20 million merchants accepting the service.
And an even bigger deal: the UAE is now among only 20 countries that now enjoy the service. Throughout those three years, Apple Pay was only in 16 territories; along with the UAE, the service also went live in Denmark, Sweden and Finland.
Using Apple Pay is as easy as 1-2-3: add a card to your iPhone’s Wallet app (formerly Passbook), hold your device near a contactless card reader at where you’re making a purchase and use Touch ID to complete it. You can also do this action with your Apple Watch – and even if you leave your iPhone far away, you can still use the Watch for Apple Pay. The Touch ID step is also available on iPads and Macs that support it. For in-app purchases, a user just needs to tap the ‘Buy with Apple Pay’ button.
In the soon-to-be-released iPhone X, which lacks a fingerprint sensor, Face ID will be used to authenticate an Apple Pay purchase.
As mentioned earlier, six UAE banks are already offering Apple Pay in the country from Day 1.
Bailey – who has been with Apple for 13 years running the Apple Online Store, which, under her guidance, grew to operate in over 40 countries – says that customers can expect that more financial institutions will be added in the near future.
“Our goal is to really have all banks on our platform in particular markets,” she said. “We’re working to add issuers monthly.”
She points out that the company works in harmony with banks to achieve this goal.
“Supporting Apple Pay from a bank perspective requires technical work to integrate into our systems to support our security models. It does take effort on the part of banks, and we are continually working with banks to help them through that.”
Speaking of security, Bailey stresses that Apple Pay’s message is clear: there’s nothing to worry about.
“We thought deeply about security from the very beginning,” she explains. “With Apple Pay, your card number isn’t exactly stored on the iPhone, on Apple servers or shared with merchants.”
Simply put, instead of the traditional method of storing details in devices, here’s how it works: a unique device account number is assigned and encrypted, which is securely stored in a secure element on the device. Each transaction, then, is authorised with a one-time dynamic security code.
And even if you lose your iPhone, you don’t have to panic: by using Find My iPhone or by going to iCloud.com, you can put a device in Lost Mode – which automatically suspends all the cards in Apple Pay – or remove them remotely.
For good measure, Apple won’t even know the details of your purchases made with Apple Pay.
“It’s really an easy, secure and private way to pay,” Bailey added.
And it works both ways: companies are also reaping the benefits from the service.
Bailey says that while the benefits are varied but many depending on the type of business, there’s one industry that Apple Pay is popular with: quick-service restaurants, as it increases their throughput, especially during those times of the day that people are really hungry.
“Those kinds of business love Apple Pay; it enables them to serve customers quicker and they don’t even have to worry about security,” she pointed out.
With Apple Pay now in a place like the UAE, it won’t be surprising if more users will be convinced that digital payments is the way forward – especially with a service that has a 97 per cent satisfaction rating.
“In other markets, we’ve seen very fast adoption because it’s very convenient,” Bailey says.
“We’re sure they would love to find stores that have Apple Pay.”