A love letter to mobile payments for Valentine's Day
Dear Mobile Payments,
I wanted to take this moment, during this special time of the year when we express admiration to our loved ones, to tell you how much I adore your presence.
Despite the difficulties we sometimes face together, you've been a consistent force for good in my life the past several years.
I remember fondly the very first time we met, even though the form you chose to take at that very moment eventually faded into the wind.
I was strolling along inside a mall on the north shore of Massachusetts when I spotted a vending machine with a contactless reader. This was it, I thought. This was my chance to finally use an NFC-based mobile payment.
At the time, I was taking a break from Apple devices and had in my possession an HTC smartphone. It was fine, but at the time Google Wallet didn't play well with AT&T. So, I resorted to using Softcard, a silly name that replaced that sinister-sounding name. You know, the one that was associated with that terrorist group?
Anyway, I remember how easy it was to pay for that bottle of water. It was a magical moment that's still etched into my mind to this day. But I have to admit, I was jealous.
I was jealous of that shiny new object called Apple Pay. It looked interesting, and way more magical than Softcard. But it would still be some time before I switched back to an Apple device. But when I did, oh boy. I fell in love with mobile payments all over again.
It wasn't that Apple Pay was unlike anything we had seen before. Our counterparts in countries such as Japan and South Korea has been using NFC mobile payments for years. We were inexplicably behind in the U.S. (shocker, I know).
But Apple Pay presented the technology in a more streamlined way with the combination of iOS capabilities and fingerprint authentication. And it was the latter part of that equation that started to make mobile payments easier.
The ability at that time to authenticate a purchase with a fingerprint was poetry in motion. And it opened up so many other possibilities for others.
Needed to easily reload your Starbucks account? Boom, fingerprint authentication. Needed to easily pay for an Uber or Lyft? Boom, fingerprint authentication. Needed to login into your mobile banking app? Well, there's fingerprint authentication for that as well.
In fact, fingerprint authentication as worked so well that other OEMs and mobile wallet platforms have mimicked the technology as well. It works quite well on my Galaxy S8. Yes, I know, I've turned my back on Apple yet again.
But Mobile Payments, you and I sometimes have issues. But I place that blame solely on your parents.
Sometimes Mobile Payments, you don't work as smoothly as intended. When I use you at Whole Foods, I still have to touch that dirty PIN pad to complete my purchase.
When I use you to pay a fare on the Chicago transit system, the reader makes a fuss and doesn't recognize my tap.
Oh, and you can have problems in your barcode and QR code form. Sometimes, it takes a few extra seconds for the reader to recognize that code.
Again, the blame doesn't sit with you.
Your parents belong to a sometimes complicated ecosystem with banks, card networks, device manufacturers, point-of-sale makers, processors and more. Sometimes, they don't always play nice together. And in the end, you become a little less attractive in my eye.
But never fear, because your personality shines. Your long-term potential is what gives me hope as you become more versatile.
I can now make that mobile payment with a smartwatch. Or order groceries from a refrigerator. Sometimes, I can even ask Alexa to complete a payment. Don't worry, she's just a good friend…
As I think about the different ways I love Mobile Payments, I'm overcome with emotion. We've had a good time together despite your flaws. But I see nothing but great things ahead.
Sincerely and with much love,
Will Hernandez has 14 years of experience ranging from newspapers to wire services and trade publications. Before becoming Editor of MobilePaymentsToday.com, he spent two years as the content manager for PaymentsJournal.com, a leading payments industry news aggregator and information hub published by Mercator Advisory Group. Will spent four years covering the payments industry as an associate editor for multiple publications in SourceMedia's Payments Group based in Chicago.