KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 9 — Apple’s mobile payment system Apple Pay is finally here in Malaysia and despite it not being new, it is new to this country.
You would think Malaysians wouldn’t be as excited as they seem to be but the buzz about its pending arrival has been ramping up for weeks.
It’s just another way to pay with your phone, right? After all, we already have multiple wallets so why should we care about Apple Pay?
Sometimes you just have to experience something to understand its appeal so (as if I needed an excuse) I had a short excursion to KLCC to try it out.
Just a note: Apple Pay can be used anywhere that supports NFC card readers and PayWave. If you can tap your card to a card reader to pay, Apple Pay will work.
One tap, add
Embarrassingly AmBank and Maybank had jumped the gun by putting up pages promoting the service prior to its launch on August 9.
Though the pages have been taken down, it didn’t stop users, myself included, from checking the Wallet app to see if it would allow Malaysian cards to be added.
As luck would have it, I was up a little late and a little after 2am, I found I could add both my Maybank credit and debit cards to the Wallet app.
It was as easy as opening the Wallet app and pressing the little plus symbol in the upper-right hand corner.
A couple of confirmation texts and both my cards were set up, and I even got a notification asking if I wanted to sync my Wallet to my Apple Watch.
I missed those notifications, however, and instead set up my card via my Watch app on the iPhone, got a verification text from my bank and in seconds my Watch was also Apple Pay ready.
It was as simple as Apple promised but would that apply to what I would call a typical outing to KLCC? It was time to take Apple Pay and my self-control out for a test drive.
My first stop was Kinokuniya and I picked up a copy of Roger Frampton’s Stretch to help with conditioning my very stiff muscles after a self-enforced break from any kind of exercise after getting Covid.
Funnily enough I had more of a struggle with the book store’s new web app than paying for my book.
I just told the cashier I was paying by Wave. She only asked if I was using Mastercard or Visa and when I confirmed which card I was using, she held out the card reader and I tapped my phone to it.
Initiating a payment on the iPhone is as easy as double-tapping the right-side button that you would ordinarily use to summon Apple’s virtual assistant Siri.
This is where it starts to diverge from the experience of paying with other services such as eWallets or Samsung’s own Samsung Pay.
To authorise payments you need only use face recognition via FaceID and you do not even need to take your mask off — I just stared into my front camera’s lens and a beep confirmed my payment cleared.
In the Wallet, an entry showing my book purchase popped up.
Where usually you need to enter your credit/debit card’s bank-supplied PIN to authorise payments over RM250, that requirement is waived with Apple Pay.
This means no one can peep at your PIN from over your shoulder and while even a card with a chip can have its data cloned, with Apple Pay no one can even see your credit card number, the security code or your bank PIN.
I wasn’t going to do or buy anything I wouldn’t do otherwise as it would render the experience pointless otherwise.
So I stopped by Bisou for cupcakes — the Chocolate Dementia flavour is wonderfully decadent — and then headed downstairs to Isetan supermarket for a quick bite.
There was a wagyu burger promotion, and I paid for one in the checkout line with no hassle.
However when I stopped by another counter to buy a latte and pie, the staff manning the kiosk was surprised that I was just paying with a tap.
“What is this? Apple Pay? It’s new?” She was intrigued as the infrared handheld scanner didn’t work but the standard card reader did.
I then walked over to Chateraise to get a cream puff for my housemate and this time, paid with my Apple Watch.
Like the iPhone, paying with the Wallet on the Apple Watch also required pressing the right-hand side button twice.
I turned my wrist to tap my watchface to the card reader and it was just as easy, perhaps even easier than using a phone.
A local Twitter user had reported that even a very old Apple Watch model could use Apple Pay.
You don’t need WiFi, or mobile data to pay with the Watch. You could safely leave your phone and credit cards at home and still be able to pay so long as the store you visit has an NFC card reader.
This is a lot safer than using a real wallet as someone can still use your card (for limited purchases) or cash but without the PIN, no one can use your Apple Watch to pay for things.
Easier than anything
In comparison to Apple Pay’s simplicity, all the major eWallets and even a basic credit or debit card look unwieldy.
Just last week I had to keep a cashier waiting as I stared at my eWallet app screen because I had forgotten how to pay with it.
Compare that to Apple Pay where I just tapped one button twice and scanned. No PINs, no stopping and pausing or looking for specific screens, and no thought necessary.
I came home with way too much cake and also an appreciation for things made simple.
Now if only our local payment providers (hello Touch ‘n Go) put as much care into a seamless, convenient experience.
I wish I could find something I didn’t like about Apple Pay besides a foreboding feeling about the future of my bank account.