At the Sept. 9 unveiling of Apple Pay, CEO Tim Cook said the contactless payment technology "will forever change the way all of us buy things." I tried out Apple Pay on Monday, its first day of availability, and while we're not quite at Cook's "forever" stage yet, the process was a smooth one -- with one exception.
Brief recap: Apple Pay requires an NFC-enabled Apple device, which as of now means an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. Early next year, Apple Watch will be added to the list. Businesses also need NFC-equipped payment terminals, and they must be Apple Pay participants.
With Apply Pay, you can make a credit or debit card payment simply by tapping your iPhone 6 to the NFC chip reader embedded in a payment terminal. As you tap, you put your finger on the iPhone 6's biometric fingerprint reader for authentication.
Setting up Apple Pay on my iPhone 6 Plus was easy; it took me about 10 minutes to register six cards.
First, you download iOS 8.1, which also became available Monday. Next, open the Passbook app, tap the "+" icon in the upper right corner, then touch "Set Up Apple Pay" or "Add Another Card" under "Credit and Debit Cards."
You can manually enter your card number. Using your iPhone's camera to capture the number is much easier and, in my experience, entirely accurate. (Note: If you have a "busy" image or graphic on your card, you may have issues here.) For all but one of my cards, the camera captured both the credit card number and the card's expiration date. You need to manually enter each card's security code.
I was able to register all my cards except for a MasterCard airline-branded card. MasterCard supports Apple Pay, but Barclaycard, the issuer of my card, is listed among banks that will add Apple Pay later this year. (Others include PNC, USBank and Navy Federal Credit Union.)
To test Apple Pay, I visited three San Francisco stores listed as Apple Pay-compatible on Apple's website: Walgreens, Radio Shack and Whole Foods.
Paying with my iPhone 6 Plus was extremely easy at Walgreens and Whole Foods, though on day one, the checkout clerks at both stores weren't sure if Apple Pay would work or how to use it. My local Radio Shack -- yes, my local geek emporium -- said Apple Pay wouldn't be available there for another day or so.
As for Cook's self-serving prophecy, I doubt that Apple Pay will forever change how people make purchases. For now, Apple Pay does makes buying easier for those of us with new iPhones -- and possibly more secure. That's a good start.