Wristy Business

MurphsLaw Apple PaySo Apple Pay has arrived in the UK with a surprisingly minimal amount of fuss. Not so much as a press release from Apple in my inbox to announce its debut, and passing through London’s Waterloo station this morning, nothing in any of the shops I went into to say that Apple Pay specifically was welcomed here, or that the contactless terminals in the stores could cope with it.

Only one way to find out, of course, and that was to put it to the test. After loading up the debit card for my current account – a typically intuitive Apple process – I bought some hay fever tablets in Boots and a latte in Pret, hitting the side button twice on each occasion to bring up a photo of my debit card showing the last four numbers (so I know it’s the right one), with the word ‘Ready’ above the photo and the instruction ‘Hold Near Reader To Pay’ below it.

On each occasion, the payment went through instantly, with a light buzz on my wrist to confirm that it had been accepted. Perhaps surprisingly, the sales assistant in Boots was the less surprised of the two, having had a couple of other people paying with the Watch earlier in the day.

The girl who served me in Pret seemed a little more wowed by what I’d just done, but given that the payment showed as authorised, just gave me a friendly smile and said “Nice”. I guess checkout staff in shops up and down the land from McDonald’s to Waitrose are getting used of people coming to the till and waving various things from watches to cards to what looks like a FitBit (Barclays’ bPay wristband) in front of the card machine and seeing money magically transfer from the customer’s account to the shop’s. Nevertheless, I look forward to out-geeking my digital native daughters next time we’re out together and they fancy a panini. Far from being wowed, I somehow know they’ll be mortified.

Constant buzzing
It’s not all good news for Apple though. I made the payments on the Watch following an event for British Gas’s Hive connected home brand to launch a load of new stuff that we’re not allowed to tell you about until tomorrow. There, the CEO of one of the UK’s best-known mobile marketing firms told me he got his Apple Watch the day it launched and gave it away three days later, fed up with the constant buzzing of alerts on his wrist, the fact the battery was dead by 6pm, and the fact that the communication between the Watch and his phone was also killing his phone’s battery much more quickly than usual. And that’s not the first such story I’ve heard. My experience with the Watch so far, I can see where he’s coming from, but in truth, I haven’t lived with it for long enough yet to get bored with it.

My excuse for buying the Apple watch – I’ve been an Android user for longer than I care to remember – was a feeling that I needed to understand what brands are doing on the device, and the fact that I’m giving a presentation in a few weeks to a bunch of senior newspaper publishers, around the transition from print to digital, including mobile and wearables, so my particular device over-indexes massively on newspaper apps, as I seek to get a feel for who’s doing what and who, if anyone, is doing it particularly well. In case you’re interested, the jury’s still out on that one.

Up until the middle of last week, I was using the Watch with an iPhone 5 bought purely because our office iPhone 4 wasn’t compatible. I switched to the iPhone as my main phone when I got fed up of forgetting to pack it. Then when someone pointed out I had an Apple Watch, I would have to tell them that today, sadly, it was just a watch.

Having made the switch, given that SwiftKey, my main reason for staying with Android all those years, is now available for iOS, I have few regrets so far. Dictating text messages to Siri is neat. It might have been possible to do exactly the same thing on my Galaxy 5, but if so, I was never encouraged to do so by Samsung. Otherwise, theres not a lot to choose between the two OSs.

My one regret is that I didn’t foresee the need to make the iPhone my main phone, so bought a 5 instead of a 6 or a 6 Plus. After several years on Galaxys, the 5 feels like a child’s toy, and pairing Apple’s highest-tech device – the Watch – with the lowest-tech phone it will work with, somehow feels wrong. I’ll be leaving it a good few weeks yet before going for a bigger iPhone, however. On the basis of my first two transactions, Apple Pay on the Apple Watch is undeniably neat. Whether it’s enough to keep me charging the Watch as well as the phone (and the spare power pack) every night, I need a few more weeks to decide.