How Bad ApplePay UX Could Cost Apple The Payments Race

<Reproduced with kind permission from Forbes>

With the new models of the phone, Apple had to take another step towards “paying with one’s mind” and decide on the most secure and effective user experience to adapt ApplePay to screens without a thumbprint.

What they came up with is a process that seems minutely different to the untrained eye but is in fact vastly more complicated than the one they had before and as such is the biggest fail l have seen then perform in usability.

How it works

You can find a tutorial here but in short, to pay with the new devices one has to perform however many clicks their particular phone requires to get to Wallet then however many to scroll through alternatives and select the desired card and then they have to double click on the side button, place the phone in front of their face to use Face ID and authenticate themselves and only then touch the screen of the payment terminal to complete the transaction.

Even if we disregard the pitfalls of the clicks and the pain of the notoriously routinely failing FaceID, a user used to momentarily holding their thumb on the home button to confirm a payment will find this monumentally more complicated.

Apple is well aware of the usability barrier the double click and FaceID pose to the previously-print-user as they had to go as far as to describe the necessary actions i.e. “double click here” in the UI every time the user encounters them but it’s unlikely they are aware of how cardinal of a design sin this will prove in the context of paying that is meant to have as only USP the ease of use.

Some articles suggest pre-arming as the only way to speed up a painful process. In fact, Apple themselves not only advice it but have trained implementing banks around the world to suggest it. 


This de-facto entails that you do all the pressing and the staring or the password inputting you have to before reaching the counter as the phone allows for 60 seconds once the dance has been completed to employ its NFC magic.

I would love to see “adoption rates” for “pre-arming” and would be shocked if they aren’t indeed dismal.

Let’s talk about pre-arming

The action in itself requires more thought than the wave of a card which is the beauty of contactless.

How much thought effort do we want to invest in the paying act and is the process ever going to become second nature?

There are plenty of examples of contortionist UX that still gets adopted by the consumer so eventually, maybe Apple users too will mold themselves to the uncomfortability of glass-only Pay.

The difference is that those other difficult experiences are necessary with no alternatives in the market whereas there is no instance where simply strapping a contactless card to the back of your phone doesn’t make the experience more enjoyable than using Apple Pay.

The determining factor of adoption could be if Apple managed to impose higher limits across the board. If the general limit is 30 but they manage to de facto extend credit enough to allow all restaurants, etc to take a higher limit it’s not impossible that it would make a difference to the digitally savvy consumer but even then one would have to wonder about the psychology of a trivial purchase and the ease of payment needed for it as compared to the accepted level of pomp and circumstance that a high-ticket sale entails and requires to register as a fait accompli.

Can they save ApplePay?

Before writing this l thought pre-arming is just a party trick designed to potentially wow other Apple Pay users in the line behind you who dread the clicks, see you having the same device and simply waving it and wonder what your secret is.

Having forced myself to spend a week using it for the sake of a point of empirical anecdotal evidence, l now know it’s much more than that – it’s an anxiety-provoking attempt to avoid the embarrassment should the complicated dance fail in the midst of the Christmas shopping melee.

It’s not habit forming or in any way rewarding enough to be sustainable and become routine and Apple will have to be honest when they look at the undoubtedly frightening results of this ill-advised experiment and come up with something designed at their expected level of usability excellence quick to protect not only against its competitors, but phone covers manufacturers accidentally making banks win the contactless battle by sheer mechanical convenience and the magic of a simple, easy and fast payment experience that requires neither your thumb nor your face.

Perhaps this first example of dismal usability is a sign of too much workplace Psychological Safety and the beginning of consumer obsession complacency and organizational hubris at Apple, and to correct course, everyone who was in the room (or the Slack channel) where the design of the new ApplePay glass experience was signed off on, should be made to use it with no alternatives in the London’s TFL network in rush hour for a month.

Banks Won’t Eat Challengers’ Dog Food But That’s Not Who’s Coming For Their Lunch

<Reproduced with kind permission from Forbes>

The Bubble of Banking

“Get out of the building” was such trendy advice a few years ago and now everyone is barricaded in their building.

Being told to look at other industries elicited many a gratuitous Silicon Valley excursions from bankers around the world which were invariably sprung on by lofty aspirations of doing the same things as the champions only to be drowned by seemingly reassuring remarks on how that simply doesn’t apply to banking. 

These days those trips are rarer and rarer which is a blessing and a curse.

Is it maybe that we don’t get out so that we don’t see how far behind we are digital user experience wise?

What’s most concerning is that traditional banks are not the only ones inside the bubble anymore but challengers are heading that was as well.

It’s nothing short of tragic to see some of them having but moments ago left their privileged first-principles design position and having now gotten utterly stuck in whatever they produced, often so blinded by the reality of day-to-day operations that instead of their current offering being a first pit stop at the end of a design sprint it becomes their main offering.

There is no doubt that it’s understandable – for challengers day-to-day doesn’t only involve running a bank which is what incumbents cite doing with such sacrifice but running a small business that needs to show its worth under extreme scrutiny as well. It’s tough.

A tale of two different tragedies – the challengers having to make a start-up thrive and the bankers having to budge an almost impenetrable mass of legacy tech and legacy culture. None an enviable position. None poised to build any lasting wins for the consumer.

Where are my MoneyMomentsTM

No one wanted challengers in the UK to succeed more than me. Over the years I’ve penned a couple of open letters which aimed to keep the snark level low and the constructive advice level high. Granted, a lofty goal for me, but my delivery shouldn’t have obscured the main message a plea for them to build solid technology pillars, take aggregation seriously, buy or build extremely capable categorization and data capabilities and above all, forget about banking products as they know them and design from scratch for addictive money moments.

Needless to say and not to burst the bubble of our newly enthused American friends who celebrate the announced imminent import of some of those propositions this week, none of that happened.

If you unpack most challengers today, they are rapidly building legacy of their own both in technology and in the way they are building the organization, having skipped steps and cut corners in their hurry to put out an app with some pleasing design accompanied by the best looking card they can think of and greater a sin still, with the exception of the unrealised promise of the budding challengers who aspire to become platforms, gave us precisely the same thing high street banks did.

Not a MoneyMoment in sight. How do l know they aren’t building any? Well ask yourself, with all the permissions every app ever asks for, why hasn’t any challenger asked to read your health data or at least your Calendar or your TripIt information? How are they to build integrated, contextual experienced when their transactional data is largely untouched and unaugmented with meaning and their data from other sources inexistent?

They aren’t. Truth is it’s not necessarily more likely that they will start doing so any sooner than the next NatWest app update. 

License to snooze

It’s a lot grimmer for the success of the challengers than we have collectively hoped for in the industry with advocates faith diminishing and mass adoption lacking but does that mean that incumbents should breathe a sigh of relief and carry on with JP Nicols’ trademarked “innovation theaters” and ever stronger “business prevention” departments?

Only if they’re ready to be out of the game because the extinction threat doesn’t come from colorful cards and incrementally better digital apps but entirely new ways of interacting with finances that will insidiously and mercifully insert themselves in our every day digital lives through buying behaviour and relevant advice and the guys who can and will provide this only have to click to make it happen.