The iPhone Feature That No One Is Talking About

Posted by Alex Willis on Sep 16, 2016 10:22:53 AM

In Apple Pay, iPhone 7

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APPLE’S NOT TALKING about it. Tim Cook and company are too busy trumpeting a new iPhone that’s pretty much like the old iPhone (except there’s—GASP—no headphone jack!). But if Apple’s not talking about it, that probably means it’s far more interesting—and far more important. And indeed it is.

This week, with the arrival of the new iPhone operating system, Apple Pay now works inside web browsers. Yes, that’s more interesting than no headphone jack. And its importance will only grow in the next few weeks as Apple Pay, the company’s digital payments service, reaches the web on Macs as well as iPhones.

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Since Apple first unveiled Apple Pay in the fall of 2014, the tech press has portrayed it primarily as a way of easily paying for stuff inside drugstores, grocery stores, and other physical shops. Rather than pulling a credit card from your wallet and pushing it into a reader at the checkout counter, you can hold your phone to a reader, press your thumb to the phone, and wait for a beep. The thing is: paying with a plastic credit card isn’t really that difficult. With Apple Pay, the bigger point is that it’s also a way of paying for stuff online. From the beginning, it lets you pay for things inside apps, and now, you can use it on the web too.

That’s when it becomes interesting. Traditionally, you see, paying for stuff online—the physical process of paying—is far more difficult than paying for stuff at your local drugstore, because, so often, you have to enter all your payment information by hand. This is particularly true when you’re coming to a retailer for the first time through a web browser. But Apple Pay can change all that. Apple Pay for the web is “a really big deal,” says John Collison, the co-founder of Stripe, the San Francisco start up that helps businesses accept payments through all sorts of services, including Apple Pay. “It solves the big problem in e-commerce: the conversion problem.”

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Certainly, other services let you easily pay for stuff online. Amazon has things down pat on Amazon.com. And PayPal works well across apps and websites, not just in one place. But Apple Pay can change the equation because it’s built into the iPhone—and because it doubles as a service that can pay for stuff in physical stores. When you set up a new iPhone—the most popular phone on Earth—it offers to set you up with Apple Pay. Once you enter your credit card number and other details, you have a single, simple way of paying for stuff in a drugstore, in an app, and, now, on the web.

As an added bonus, you don't have to deal with the "Do I swipe or insert my chip?" dilemma with your card at the store. I think we can all agree Apple Pay will save us from that embarrassment.