Apple Pay is launching in the UK very soon, so we decided to compare Apple's nascent contactless payment tech with Samsung Pay - the equivalent Samsung service that is more rumour than fact. It won't surprise you to note that we feel Apple Pay is much the better system, but Samsung Pay does have some interesting technical features. For more on Apple Pay, see also Apple Pay UK release date, FAQs and features.
Samsung Pay vs Apple Pay: what it is, how it works
At MWC 2015, Samsung announced Samsung Pay as it launched the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. Both phones have NFC for use with Samsung Pay, but there's a key technical difference between Samsung Pay and Apple Pay. Rather than limiting transactions exclusively to NFC, Samsung Pay will also work with magnetic strip readers - a much older technology which is available in virtually every shop that accepts card payments. Samsung is doing this with a new proprietary technology called Magnetic Secure Transmission, or MST for short.
Apple Pay is a pure-play NFC-payment system. It uses the Near Field Communication chip in specific Apple devices to make a contactless payment. Technically it will work in stores that accept contactless card payments, although it will also require the vendor to have signed up.
Your Touch ID fingerprint scanner is key to the whole thing, but you will also need a specific NFC antenna that is built into certain Apple devices.
If the shop you're in supports Apple Pay, they will have a little sensor by the till. You put your iPhone on the sensor, put your finger on the Touch ID fingerprint scanner to identify yourself, and that's it. There are NFC antennae in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but not in any earlier iPhones. There are also NFC chips in the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, but they appear to be deactivated for the time being; no iPad is able to use the full, in-store version of Apple Pay.
Samsung Pay vs Apple Pay: UK launch date
Samsung Pay will launch in Summer 2015, according to the company, but only in the US and Korea, with Europe following later. Right now there is no UK release date (and no sign of one). But there are some signs of life: Samsung Pay entered a north American beta test in the past few days.
Apple made a big deal of being able to make secure payments via NFC when it launched the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. And at its Apple Watch event on March 9th it confirmed that owners would also be able to use their wrist-mounted gadget to pay for stuff too.
The company stopped short of revealing a UK (or European) launch date for Apple Pay at that time, but at the WWDC keynote on 8 June it finally announced that the service would launch for UK users in July 2015. We are expecting Apple Pay to launch in the UK on July 14.
Read next: How to use Apple Pay in the UK
Samsung Pay vs Apple Pay: compatible devices
Only Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge owners will be able to use Samsung Pay as it stands. It's possible that other NFC- and fingerprint reader-equipped Android phones will be compatible with Samsung Pay, but we'll have to wait and see what Samsung decides.
The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus work with Apple Pay. As well as the Touch ID fingerprint scanner that's integral to Apple Pay's identification system, the new iPhones have a dedicated NFC antenna built across the top. You can also use the Apple Watch, with Apple Pay. And, of course, all future Apple smartphones and smartwatches.
Poll: Will you use Apple Pay?
Fellow UK Apple fans! Are you planning to use Apple Pay? Would you be willing to change banks to do so? Let us know by answering our poll:
Samsung Pay vs Apple Pay: banks and stores
Samsung says it has partnered with MasterCard and Visa, but has made no specific announcements about other banks, or vendors. There is no news on the UK launch, at all.
Eight UK banks are on-board with Apple Pay - all the high-street names, with the notable exception of Barclays. We understand that American Express, First Direct, HSBC, NatWest, Nationwide, RBS, Santander and Ulster Bank will support Apple Pay at the UK launch in July. Bank of Scotland, Coutts, Halifax, Lloyds Bank, MBNA, M&S Bank and TSB will join at some point later in 2015.
Apple has boasted that Apple Pay will be available at more locations for its launch UK than it was for the US launch - and there some big names on the list. Marks and Spencers and Waitrose are there, as are Boots, Lidl, Starbucks, Subway and Liberty. TfL (Transport for London) will support Apple Pay, too, so Londoners will be able to pay for Tube and bus journeys with iPhone or Apple Watch. (If you want to know more about that last one, read our tutorial article How to use Apple Pay on the London Underground.)
Right now there is no Tesco, Sainsbury, Morrisons or Asda. We imagine that if Apple Pay is as popular here as it is in the States, they'll join up soon enough.
Samsung Pay vs Apple Pay: how to use it
Within the Samsung Pay app, you'll be able to add your cards (including so-called Private Label Credit Cards) and later, when you want to pay for something, you swipe up from the screen bezel to launch the app, choose which card to use and then use the fingerprint reader to authenticate the purchase. Like contactless payments, you'll tap your phone to the card reader to make the purchase.
However, while the system sounds great in principle, only Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge owners will be able to use it. It's possible that other NFC and fingerprint reader-equipped Android phones will be compatible with Samsung Pay, but we'll have to wait and see what Samsung decides.
Apple Pay is more simple: take a picture of your credit card, verify that this is your card, and you're ready to go.
Your credit card (but not its sensitive data) will then be saved in Passbook; the red symbol along the top of the Passbook icon that first appeared in iOS 8 represents credit cards. Once set up you are good to go in any store that uses Apple Pay.
Samsung Pay vs Apple Pay: verdict
You are reading Macworld UK, so it won't surprise you to learn that we are fans of Apple Pay rather than Samsung Pay. We will be able to use Apple Pay very soon in the UK, with many banks and stores. Samsung Pay is little more than an announcement at this stage. Where Samsung's tech does have the edge is that it should work with more payment terminals because it utlilises Magnetic Secure Transmission. But until it is a reality in the UK, we can't recommend Samsung over Apple. Nor would we ever!
You will need to set up Apple Pay using the new Wallet app. Here's how to use Apple Wallet app.
Read our Apple Pay review