Tech Talk: Changing Payment Scene Now Favors Mobile

You're standing in line with your phone out at Walgreens, your phone at the ready; it's unlocked and Android Pay is already loaded. Your plan is to have your energy drink scanned, tap your phone to pay quickly, then get back to the office with as much time as possible to enjoy said energy drink and mentally prepare for the second half of the day before dragging yourself sleepily back to your desk. In getting around, seconds often matter, since they can affect whether you hit stop signals or even if you may end up having a run of bad luck such as a car accident, just by being at the wrong place at the wrong time. As far as payment goes, you've made the right choice for the occasion; thanks to a payment landscape that is beginning to change to become more security-minded, mobile payment is often the quickest and easiest way to lay claim to your goods and get out of the store and back to whatever you were doing. Not every mobile payment platform is supported everywhere and some places' systems can process them more easily than others, but on the average, they seem to be faster and more secure than a simple plastic card or pulling out cash, which means they stand a great chance at becoming the most popular payment method in the near future.

Between the big three players in the mobile payment space, Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay, as long as you bank with a major bank or a major credit union, and not smaller as well as local outfits, chances are fairly good that you'll be able to use at least one of those three. Of course, they are all continuously working to widen the range of supported banking establishments, but it can be a slow process. In any case, the status quo is currently moving toward mobile payments for a few reasons, especially in the U.S.

While Samsung Pay has the advantage of being accepted at almost any place that takes credit cards, Android Pay boasts usability on a wider number of devices, while Apple Pay is, of course, the only mobile payment system available for iOS users. These advantages essentially become no-brainers by splitting mobile payment users into three camps. Samsung owners will typically use Samsung Pay because of the MST functionality, Apple device owners will naturally use Apple Pay, and owners of Android devices besides Samsung will, obviously, mostly use Android Pay. While there are other NFC-based mobile payment solutions out there, such as PayPal, they've found themselves playing second fiddle to the big three in short order.

Speaking to mobile payment systems' superiority over plastic, the main draw is security. Whereas a chipped card is plenty secure and can't be forged, and most banks will work with theft or loss victims on unauthorized charges, there's a hassle involved if such a card is compromised. Mobile payments, however, require security to be set up on your device. This means that somebody who steals your old-fashioned credit card has all-you-can-eat fast food and may get busted, somebody who steals your chip card can buy what they wish at most places, but will almost certainly end up identified and caught before long, and somebody who steals your phone... can't even open your mobile payment app without guessing your passcode, so they get nothing. On top of that, with tools like Lookout and Android Device Manager and the inability to disable location functionality from a secured lock screen with most devices, chances are anybody that steals a phone will have their location known by their victim and the police in a matter of minutes. If your phone is taken and used for payments by somebody that you would otherwise have trusted or somebody who happens to crack your lock screen, you still have traditional security measures and fraud protection to fall back on. With most devices being encrypted nowadays, thieves would have a hard time breaking security or stealing information, even with special tools.

Another advantage is speed. As stated above, mobile payments, on average, tend to be faster than traditional means. To attest to that fact, our source, the New York Times, tested various payment methods at various stores that accepted all of them. While the different mobile payment solutions took varying amounts of time depending on the app used and the location, they all beat plastic, even if by a second or two. The tap and go nature of mobile payments also makes life easier for people like service industry employees and cashiers at old-fashioned or high-end shops, who may have to process multiple payments in the timeliest possible fashion.

Taken together, those two advantages spell a clear win for mobile payments, unless the traditional payment scene undergoes a radical change in the near future. This, of course, does not seem to be the case. As plastic moves more in the direction of covering up security holes and cash, while having always been a slow and insecure way to pay, is beginning to fall by the wayside in some communities and even fall under rumors of a possible ban in some circles, more and more banks are partnering up with mobile payment providers and more and more stores are working with terminal providers to add the capability to accept mobile payments. Naturally, the possibility of sudden and radical change is ever-present, as in any space, but the way things are looking right now, mobile payments have a clear and fairly quick road to the top of the payment solution heap.

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