As a Tim Hortons manager patiently tried to show me how to use my phone to pay for my bagel and cream cheese, I refused to look behind me, sensing a growing lineup of customers anxious to get their double doubles.
On Tuesday, after having been available exclusively to non-bank-issued American Express cardholders for the past six months, Apple Pay launched to clients of a couple of Canadian banks that offer Visa, MasterCard or debit cards. As a Royal Bank of Canada customer with an iPhone 6, this was my first opportunity to make a true mobile payment and I was eager to try. I've been using the Starbucks app for a year and find the process convenient and easy.
At first, my attempts to use Apple Pay were downright confusing and somewhat embarrassing, due to my own missteps. But once I got the hang of it (thanks to that helpful Tim Hortons manager), I could see the appeal.
I started Tuesday morning by adding my Visa card to the Apple Wallet app, where Apple Pay is stored. After placing my card in front of a rectangular window, as if I were taking a photo, I had to type in my three-digit security code manually. Next, the app asked me if wanted to verify my card by calling RBC or by downloading RBC's Wallet app. I chose to download the app, where I had to log in using my client card number and online banking password. I gave the app permission to use my Apple touch ID (my thumbprint) instead of having to enter my password every time.
My colleague, who also added his credit card to Apple Pay in the morning, told me he received an e-mail from Apple with instructions for the service. I didn't get an e-mail so I skimmed his (I eventually received the same message a couple hours later in the afternoon). "Apple Pay is accepted everywhere that contactless payments are accepted ... while checking out, simply hold your iPhone near the contactless reader with your finger on Touch ID – there's no need to open Wallet or even wake your display."
That sounded simple enough so I left my downtown office and headed out to King Street to give it a try. After two failures, I got the hang of it. Here's what happened:
1) I picked up some much-needed cough drops at Shoppers Drug Mart and walked straight to the checkout. When I told the cashier I wanted to try Apple Pay she asked if that was credit or debit. Since I was going to use my Visa card I said credit and waited until the terminal machine said it was ready. I nervously tapped my phone on the card reader like I've been doing with my credit cards for years, but nothing happened. I took my slim, rubberized phone case off and tried again. I flipped my phone around so it was screen-side down and tapped. Nothing. I opened Apple's Wallet app where I could see a picture of my card and tried again. Then I opened the RBC wallet app. Still nothing. The cashier was patient but I was flustered, so I pulled a Visa card out of my actual wallet, tapped and, seconds later, left with my Ricola.
2) Next, I decided to head to one of the "featured stores" on Apple's website – McDonald's. I ordered a small fries and again told the cashier I wanted to try Apple Pay. Putting on a brave face, I tried to tap my phone a few different ways and nothing happened. "Sorry, but I don't think we have it yet," another cashier leaned over and said. Frustrated again with a couple of people in line behind me, I pulled $1.45 out of my change purse, grabbed my fries and left.
3) Determined to figure it out, I headed to Tim Hortons next door, another of Apple Pay's featured stores. I ordered a bagel and cream cheese and told the cashier I wanted to use Apple Pay. "We don't have apple pie," she said. After we shared a laugh and figured out what I was talking about, I clumsily tried to tap my phone on the terminal again as my face grew red.
"Has anyone used Apple Pay yet?" I asked. "Two people this morning," she said. "Let me get the manager." Moments later a young man arrived and asked if he could see my phone. He took a look at the Wallet app, then held my phone, backside down, against the payment terminal's screen for a couple of seconds. An image of my credit card in the Apple wallet popped up, with a picture of a fingerprint below it that said "Pay with Touch ID." This was a good sign. "Now put your finger on the home screen button," the manager said. I got excited and pressed the button with my thumb and of course, the app closed and displayed the home screen of my phone. "No, don't press it, just touch it," he said patiently, holding my phone to the terminal until the payment screen popped up again. This time I held my thumb against the button as gently as I could. The image of the finger print on the screen gradually filled in, my phone vibrated, and the price of my bagel – $2.30 – appeared on the screen. The manager, the cashier and I shared a moment of gleeful satisfaction. "Thank you both!" I said, trying to hide from the three people in line as I left.
4) Feeling confident and eager to try my new skills on my own, I headed to Starbucks and ordered an iced coffee. I held my phone against the terminal as the Tims manager had showed me and this time the payment screen appeared only a second later. After I felt my phone vibrate and saw the transaction amount appear on the screen, I pulled my phone away. "I don't think it went through," the cashier said. "But my phone says it did," I said, showing her the screen. The cashier beside her, who said he had seen a couple of customers use Apple Pay already, said the payment had gone through; it was just their terminal that was frozen. (As I write this, however, I'm not so sure. All of the payments I eventually made today show up in the authorized transactions area of the RBC wallet, but the Starbucks purchase isn't there. If I didn't pay for my coffee, I'm sorry, Starbucks.)
5) After returning to work to eat my bagel, I decided to head back to the place I had failed the first time, to give Apple Pay a fair shake. At the same Shoppers two hours later, I grabbed a juice and went to the same checkout counter, grateful to see a different cashier. Using my proven technique and new-found confidence, I paid for my drink using my phone in less than five seconds.
I could have used either of my chip-enabled credit cards in the same amount of time, so I don't think I'll be rushing out to use Apple Pay again immediately, but I can certainly see myself considering it when I go for walks in my neighbourhood and often don't want to lug my handbag around. Although I occasionally leave home without my purse and wallet, I never go anywhere without my phone.