The importance of Metaphors in Apple Pay

Digital metaphors are often essential in ensuring the mass public feel comfortable getting on board with new technology. In 2014 Apple said they would reinvent the wallet and change how we pay for things in both physical stores and online. They launched Apple Pay, a new way to make payments using the secure Touch ID fingerprint sensor on iPhone. They partnered with Chase bank to make this happen, and although very few Chase bank employees knew that they were working on a project with Apple, the bank was key in making Apple Pay a success. When Apple unveiled Apple Pay at their event in California, across the country Chase Bank was holding a press conference also waiting to reveal it. In true Apple fashion, they wanted to be the first to announce it, so backstage at the Chase event, employees were watching Apples live stream of their keynote. As soon as Apple made the announcement, Chase employee put a green Apple on the side of the stage, a sign for the Chase executives on stage that they could now announce their partnership with Apple.


If you've added your bank card to the Wallet app and used Apple Pay, you'll know how easy it is to use. The iPhone's NFC sensor recognises when you're at a contactless payment terminal and brings up your card, all you have to do is scan your fingerprint and the purchase is made in seconds. It's completely changed the game, especially in countries where they still swipe your card every time you make a purchase. It's much quicker to scan your fingerprint than to use than chip and pin and also much more secure than a contactless card as you need a fingerprint to verify it's actually you. 

Apple pay is being used more and more and there are now over 100 million contactless card being used in the UK. The Wallet app also collates your tickets, boarding passes, coupons and loyalty cards into one place. A key thing with Wallet is that it is so well integrated into the iPhone and Apple Watch. You don't have to open an app, it appears for you when it detects a contactless reader.


When working on Apple Pay, designers knew that the interface would be essential, in many ways it would make or break the feature. If the interface wasn’t right, millions of people around the world wouldn’t feel at ease using it, especially as many existing apps tried to allow device payments but were unsuccessful and confusing. One key, underrated part of the Apple Pay interface was the card artwork. When you use Apple Pay or open the wallet app, you see your card, and it looks exactly the same as the physical card. This lets users know that it behaves the same as their card, because although it’s on their phone - this is their bank card.

Loyalty cards can get annoying to carry around with so many shops and cafes offering them but Apple's Wallet could soon automatically bring up the relevant loyalty card when you go to pay. So as you pay with Apple Pay, the loyalty card for that store or cafe appears on your phone automatically, meaning you can carry around all of your loyalty cards and redeem points, digitally. Using Geofences, your iPhone also knows when you enter a Starbucks so it can automatically bring up your Starbucks cards. When you enter an airport, it will bring up your boarding passes. The iPhones location services mean it can be much more helpful than a physical wallet, showing you which cards and passes you need, when and where you need them. 


As someone who lives and study's in London, the transport network (TFL) is crucial for me getting around. All buses and tube stations accept contactless cards and Apple Pay meaning I can travel around with just my iPhone. This had made travel so much quicker as I no longer need to top up my Oyster card or wait in line for a ticket. I can just walk into any station, tap my phone and get on a train.  

There have been many times now when I have felt comfortable leaving without my wallet, as everything I need is on my iPhone. Most supermarkets, cafes, shops and transport in London accept contactless and even vending machines are appearing with contactless terminals. The UK is leading the way for cashless payment and it could soon be that more people use their phones instead of carrying a wallet.

The challenge is now for Apple to make its Wallet app better support other physical items such as coupons, loyalty cards and receipts. It has mastered the payment system (Apple Pay) so well that it immediately took off as it was so much better than anything else available. As soon as it can master everything else you carry in your wallet, we'll start to replace our physical wallets with Apple's digital wallet.


You now have your card everywhere with you, and it’s a comfortable, familiar experience. Apple's decision to centre the interface around the physical card, instead of designing their own card or interface was very deliberate and helped people immediately understand how to use Apple Pay. On the 2017 iPhone X, the phone uses Face ID instead of Touch ID, and the face icon that appears when you need to authenticate Apple Pay is an evolution of Kare’s original 1984 happy Mac face. 


Context, Unheard Voices, UALAdam Marsh