When Apple CEO Tim Cook introduced Apple Pay in September of 2014, he called the magnetic stripe card payment process “outdated” and “vulnerable.” Initially launched alongside the iPhone 6, the service quickly became the most popular mobile payment service in the world. Over 1 million credit cards had been registered with the service within its first three days of availability. Like many other forms of mobile technology, Apple wasn’t the first to introduce a mobile payment system, but it was the first to bring the service to the mainstream.
The success of Apple Pay forced Google to step up to the plate when it came to mobile payment systems. Although Google had previously introduced Google Wallet, a peer-to-peer payment service (a la Venmo) in 2011, it didn’t have a service to compete directly with Apple Pay. Building upon the Google Wallet service in conjunction with technology from Softcard, a mobile payment service that Google purchased in February of 2015, Google introduced Android Pay at Google’s annual developer conference in September of 2015.
Apple Pay vs. Android Pay – The Basics
In terms of day-to-day use, Apple Pay and Android Pay are very similar – even down to user interface. Users can add a credit or debit card easily on both apps by either taking a photo of the card or by entering the information manually. Both services use NFC (near field communication) technology to communicate transactions to NFC-enabled payment terminals, and the app for Apple Pay or Android Pay will automatically pop up when placed near an NFC-enabled payment terminal. Users can authenticate a purchase using Touch ID (for iPhones), a similar fingerprint reader (where available for Android phones), or a PIN/passcode/pattern on Android phones. Both services are well designed and easy to use where available.
Apple Pay vs. Android Pay – Compatibility
Because Apple Pay uses NFC technology to complete transactions, its use is restricted to Apple devices that support NFC technology – mainly Apple’s newer devices. The service is currently compatible with many of Apple’s devices that have been released since 2014. The iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, 7, 7 Plus, and iPhone SE all support the service. The iPad Air 2, iPad Pro, iPad Mini 3, and iPad Mini 4 support in-app purchases using Apple Pay, as well. Apple Watch users can also take advantage of the technology, even if they are using an older iPhone (iPhone 5, 5s, or 5c), although older models lack Touch ID security.
Android Pay, by contrast, is available on any Android device that supports NFC technology and is capable of running Android 4.4 KitKat or newer, which includes the majority of Android devices manufactured since 2013. According to TheVerge, when Android Pay was released, it was already compatible with 70% of active Android devices and supported by over 700,000 merchants.
Although most users who would take advantage of mobile payment technology are likely already running a newer device, Android Pay has a slight edge here due to the sheer number of devices that it is compatible with.
Apple Pay vs. Android Pay – Security
When dealing with credit/debit card numbers, security is obviously of the highest priority. The good news is – both Apple and Google have taken great care in making sure their mobile payment systems are very secure. As a result, users of either system need not worry about the safety of their data. Neither Apple Pay or Android Pay actually transmit your bank information when making a purchase – instead, the systems create a “virtual card” for each transaction. This process is called “tokenization”, which, according to ARSTechnica, “obfuscates the user’s actual credit card number, but it does so using a security standard developed by various standards groups and big-name card networks like Visa. It all happens without having to go through another bank as an intermediary supplier of a virtual card.” Like many other aspects of their mobile payment systems, Apple Pay and Android Pay operate in an almost identical manner.
Apple Pay vs. Android Pay – Support
Apple Pay’s success has brought contactless payment support mainstream, and bank and retail support is constantly growing. Because Android Pay is so similar to Apple Pay, the services are supported by many of the same banks and retailers. However, because Apple Pay is a bit more mature, support for their platform is a bit more widespread.
When Apple Pay launched, it was accepted at some 220,000 vendors and more than 500 financial institutions, including many of the most popular banks in the US. Since then, the number of both vendors and banks supporting the service has grown exponentially. Even some retailers who refused to accept Apple Pay due to exclusivity deals with competing technology, such as Rite Aid and Best Buy have begun to accept the service in the past year. It’s clear that Apple Pay is here to stay, and retailers that can’t or won’t accept Apple Pay will likely become the minority in the near future.
That said, Apple paved the way for contactless payments – and Android Pay is reaping the benefits. Almost any terminal that supports Apple Pay is also capable of accepting Android Pay, so the gap between the two services in terms of acceptance is closing. However, there are still several banks, such as Barclays in the UK, that are exclusive to Apple Pay. And retailers often run promotions with either Apply Pay or Android Pay in order to lure customers in. For example, several companies offered holiday deals for users who paid using Apple Pay on the web – Adidas, lululemon, and 1-800-Flowers among them. On the flip side, several companies, including Walgreens, have integrated their loyalty cards with Android Pay, making shopping with the service a bit more convenient for its users.
Once again due to its maturity, Apple Pay is also a bit more integrated with popular apps for in-app payments. According to PhoneArena, Apple was the first to add payments within an app, and it supports the most apps including some very popular ones (Best Buy, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Etsy, Kickstarter, Uber, Target, Ticket Master just to name a few).” By contrast, “Android Pay has only recently started supporting payments in an app, so the list of supported apps lacks some key ones.” For users that do a good deal of shopping within apps, support for Apple Pay will make the checkout process much more convenient. However, support for those very same apps using Android Pay is growing quickly, and once again, the gap between the two services is closing every day.