Cult of Mac’s day with Apple Pay

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Apple Pay is finally here and now that retailers are letting us use iPhones instead of credit cards, the Cult of Mac team is heading out into the real world to put Apple’s mobile payment solution to the test.

Leander will be shopping around San Francisco. Alex is testing Apple Pay in the backwoods of Kentucky. And I plan to sputter around Phoenix in search of a burrito shop with Apple Pay.

How easy will it be to use? Do retail staff even know what is? We expect there will be some bumps along the way on the first day, but we can’t wait to be able to burn our wallets. Keep an eye on this page throughout the day as we test whether the wallet-less future of buying stuff with your iPhone is truly here.

October 20, 2014 3:13 pm PDT Alex Heath

That, my friends, is the look of defeat. My debt card (USAA) and credit card (Chase) both don’t support Apple Pay yet, so I can’t gleefully buy fries at McDonalds like Buster. Chase is a launch partner so I thought I’d be good, but it looks like the Amazon Rewards credit card doesn’t count.

Oh well. Looks like I have to wait. I’m sure all our international readers feel my pain.

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October 20, 2014 2:26 pm PDT Leander Kahney

Apple Pay is going to rule the world.

It’s by far the easiest way to pay that I’ve ever seen; easier even than swiping a card, which is pretty darn easy. But Apple Pay takes it to the next level. No PIN numbers. No signatures. No fumbling with a silly electronic pen on a string.

Just hold you phone next to the terminal, touch your thumb. Done.

I just went on a minor shopping spree here in San Francisco and bought three things quickly and easily.

At Whole Foods, I bought some cookies. I didn’t know how the system worked, so I asked the cashier. He pointed to the card terminal where you’d normally slide your card. Like a lot of newer terminals, it’s equipped with a NFC reader on top. You know the kind: it has a touch-to-pay symbol that looks like a WiFi icon on its side. There was no indication of Apple Pay whatsoever. No stickers, nothing.

I touched my iPhone to the reader. My iPhone was off (and locked) but immediately the Apple Pay screen popped up with a glowing thumbprint to indicate I should touch the Home Button. As soon as I did, the transaction was verified with a little checkmark on screen.

The cashier told me to hit the green “credit” button to “finish the transaction,” and that was it. Took about 3 seconds. I was so surprised, I asked twice if there was more to do. “Nope,” he said. I was the first person to use it today, he said. “Pretty cool,” he added.

Next up was Walgreens. Similar experience, but a little more involved. I tapped the iPhone to the terminal, but then I had to hit the “credit” button to choose the transaction type. And after that I had to confirm the amount. I was bit disappointed. Not as easy as Whole Foods. Again, the cashier said I was the first person she’d seen using it.

At Sports Authority I encountered my first and only hiccup. The cashier had never seen Apple Pay before. She asked me to enter my pin after the iPhone had completed the transaction.

“Wait a minute,” I said, “Isn’t that the whole point — to not enter your PIN?” She shrugged, I entered my pin, and the system went into verification mode, but nothing happened. It span for a minute. She cancelled the transaction, and entered it as a credit card sale instead. I signed the keypad and it went through. Perhaps I should have hit the “credit” button on the terminal like I did at at Whole Foods?

All in all, I’m a huge fan. Even setting it up was super simple. I just took a photo of my debit card in the Passbook app and it automagically filled in the details. Super fast and easy.

Touch ID has never worked well for me in the past, because I’ve got horribly dry and scaly hands. It has been much more reliable with the new iPhone 6, which reportedly has better fingerprint-reading hardware. Admittedly, I just reset the system because it stopped working. I deleted all the fingerprints it had on file and retrained it (I enter the same thumbprint for all the profiles). It now again works like a charm, but based on past experience, I know it will probably flake out again.

When that happens I’ll be at a Giants game trying to buy beer with a crowd of angry drunks behind me, but until then, I’m a believer.

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October 20, 2014 1:57 pm PDT Buster Hein


I don’t ever eat at McDonald’s, but when I do, it’s because I couldn’t find a single burrito place in my area with an NFC reader. I cruised through McDonald’s on the way home, and the cashier actually had no idea what Apple Pay was or how to use, so I gave her a quick rundown after persuading her to bring that card terminal to the window.

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October 20, 2014 1:51 pm PDT Buster Hein

Just found a Coke machine that supports Apple Pay.

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October 20, 2014 11:41 am PDT Buster Hein

Just scored my first Apple Pay purchase: a pack of Orbit gum from CVS.

Gotta say, Apple Pay is slick! It’s almost too easy. I couldn’t believe the purchase went through about 2 seconds after tapping Touch ID.

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October 20, 2014 11:29 am PDT Buster Hein

Tried to buy a Redbull at an AM/PM gas station that has NFC terminals. They’re not a partner but Apple Pay came up at the terminal. However, I couldn’t get the payment processed for some reason – maybe it’s the $0.35 fee they’re trying to tack on?

After trying twice I just decided to swipe my card instead.

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