Apple Pay won't replace your wallet any time soon

The ability to make purchases with Apple Pay in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus might be useful, but it's not likely to make the wallet obsolete.

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Today is Apple Pay day, finally extending to iOS users a capability that Google and several others have already tried, unsuccessfully, to make mainstream.

For several reasons, Apple’s foray into mobile payments appears to have a good shot at succeeding where others have fallen short. Some point to the iPhone’s massive market share. Although more Android devices may be in the hands of consumers overall, everyday Android users who don’t read technology news and reviews obsessively might not know if their phones have an NFC chip or even how to set up Google Wallet. But with the homogeneity of iOS, everyone with an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus will have that capability.

Others point to Apple’s partnerships with retailers (two of the most notable being, ironically enough, McDonald’s and Whole Foods), credit card companies (Visa, Mastercard, American Express), and banks (Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citi, Capital One, American Express, and Chase). This pre-launch alignment of partners is aimed at facilitating both the setup and use of Apple Pay.

And some cite the iPhone’s disruptive track record in the world of personal mobile devices. A Wall Street Journal report from earlier today mentioned the once-ubiquitous devices that have become obsolete in the years since Apple introduced the iPhone:

The iPhone already has pushed aside many once-independent devices, including music players, cameras and GPS navigation systems. Now, Apple’s new payment service will enable shoppers to buy items at more than 220,000 stores or inside apps using an iPhone and thumbprint.

This is just another way of saying what so many articles have claimed since Apple Pay was introduced over a month ago – the iPhone is here to make your wallet obsolete. It’s an easy leap to make, and the kind of declaration for which those in the NFC industry have been waiting for years.

But few people seem willing to point out the glaring difference between the wallet and those three devices that the iPhone pushed to extinction – the wallet doesn’t have a battery that needs to be charged at all times.

Aside from just clearing the clutter from its users’ pockets, the smartphone also relieved them of the pressure to charge several devices before they’ll need them, let alone make sure they received regular software updates (especially important for GPS devices). And even for those who preferred to use a high-quality digital camera, for example, having a smartphone provided a backup option for when that camera’s battery died.

But how many people will trust the battery life of their iPhones, which appears to be only marginally better in the iPhone 6 models, as the only lifeline between them and their bank accounts? Today when you get stuck somewhere with a dead smartphone battery, the worst that will happen is that, without a GPS app, you might have to ask someone for directions. But with a wallet in hand, at least you’ll be able to fill your gas tank, pay a cab driver, or buy a bus pass. If your smartphone is your wallet, too, you’re left with nothing when it dies.

Admittedly, a mobile payment option would definitely come in handy in many situations, particularly when just running out to do errands. Personally, I’d love the ability to pay for a bottle of water at a convenience store while jogging without having to bring my wallet with me. And I definitely won’t be complaining when mobile payments make the lines move faster at retail stores.

Although I’ll more than likely use a mobile payment app at some point, I don’t think I’ll be cutting up my credit cards or throwing away my wallet. It’s OK to admit that something Apple makes can be useful, or even successful, if it’s not "revolutionary."

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