Every year Apple introduces new hardware and software that they tout as revolutionary devices and services but this year with Apple Pay the rhetoric could ring true and fans of Disney should take note. Apple Pay is the Cupertino-based company’s attempt to bring Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled contactless payments to the masses by integrating the technology on their latest devices including the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus and the long-awaited Apple Watch that releases in 2015 and gives iPhone 5 and newer iPhone device users access to Apple Pay. Before Christmas arrives this season, the Walt Disney Company is expected to have updated their payment terminals at Disney Store and expanded their MyMagic+ service at Walt Disney World to include the new payment system across the Walt Disney World property where heretofore the tap-to-pay functionality had been reserved for guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort using a MagicBand. It fills a large gap in the MagicBands’ current payment repertoire that is absent for anyone staying at an off Disney property hotel. Fixing the latter and making payments quicker than Mickey Mouse can say, “hey pal,” Apple and Disney may indeed just have something revolutionary in the digital cards. But before that history has an opportunity to be written, we’ll begin by answering a few basic questions about Apple Pay and ponder a bit further about how it might affect your Walt Disney World vacation.
What is Apple Pay?
For years tech companies and others have tried to replace the credit cards in your wallet with digital versions on your mobile devices making transactions presumably easier for everyone but also trying to garner the lucrative business behind it all for themselves. In this case Apple is attempting to do much of the same but well, differently. By making deals with major banks and credit card companies along with creating partnerships with retailers who will have to install the point-of-sale NFC readers to make this new payment system work, Apple hopes to achieve success where numerous others have failed. Apple Pay could mark the beginning of the end of the traditional wallet. It could relieve the many pain points of using credit cards and make payments as simple as a single touch.
How does Apple Pay work?
Apple Pay works by combining hardware on the latest generation of iPhones and special payment terminals at retail locations along with software that attempts to make mobile contactless payments quick, secure and easy. The iPhone 6 and its larger sibling the iPhone 6 Plus have seen Apple finally adopt NFC. The NFC antenna on the latest generation iPhones allows for information to quickly be sent from your iPhone to a nearby payment terminal. Once you’ve completed the initial set-up (more on that in a few moments) payments take place by holding your iPhone 6 about an inch away from the payment reader, with your finger on the iPhone’s Touch ID sensor (which authenticates using your fingerprint). In just a few seconds you will feel a small vibration on the iPhone and an audible beep to let you know your transaction is complete even if you choose to not look down on your screen. All of this happens without ever having to wake your display or even open an app.
How do I set it all up?
Apple’s Passbook app stores your tickets to baseball games, concerts and more. It stores boarding passes for your next flight, coupons to help you save money and soon it can also be the home for the digital version of your credit or debit cards. Anyone who has an iTunes account, you know the hundreds of millions of you out there whom already have given Apple your credit card information, will simply be asked to use that credit card already on file with Apple Pay as your default. Adding another card is as easy as taking a photo of the card with your iPhone’s iSight camera and then it doing some quick verification work before it is accepted into your Passbook app.
Is Apple Pay secure?
This as you might imagine is the most difficult question to answer. In the digital world we live in, nothing is truly 100% secure. But that isn’t reason enough to impede progress and technological advancement that potentially makes our life easier. It is important to approach this question by trying to have a reasonable understanding of the potential pitfalls and potential security gains that one encounters when using a digital wallet.
The Apple Pay system approaches security with a few methods. It uses the biometric sensor marketed as Touch ID to authenticate your identity. It stores your payment information, encrypted on a separate chip deemed the “Secure Element” built into every new iPhone 6/6 Plus. But Apple doesn’t store your credit card number or share it with merchants but rather it creates and stores in the Secure Element a device-only account number. This means every time you use Apple Pay it will use a one time payment number in conjunction with a dynamic security code (unlike the static version found usually on the back of your current plastic). If you were to lose your iPhone, using Find My iPhone you will be able to suspend all payments from it but won’t even have to cancel your credit card because it isn’t actually stored on your device.
Then there are the privacy gains that are an additional bonus and can somewhat enhance security as well. The cashier, doesn’t see your name, credit card number or security code as the current model forces. Apple also claims that your transaction information is never seen or stored by them. The sum is a pretty robust system that replaces the antiquated technologies of traditional credit cards. The perils however are that it is yet to be tested in mass.
We know how many cases of prominent hacks have happened just in the past month, one of which included Apple’s own iCloud. There is no denying that Apple Pay’s very success could make it a prime target for hacks but the latter has been true for credit card companies, banks, government institutions and corporations of all sizes. It is the reality of today’s society that companies will have to be ever-vigilant and adapt ever so quickly because there are so many looking to commit fraud. As a consumer we must be aware of the potential security risks and live our lives filled with progress as we continually arm ourselves with knowledge about how to best keep our personal information as secure as possible.
How will it work at Walt Disney World?
This is the exciting part and where we can already envision the currently enabled possibilities but also dream of what functionality may come in the future. First we begin with what should arrive by Christmas. Disney recently invested heavily in the overall MyMagic+ initiative which also saw the rollout of new payment terminals that serve as NFC readers that are a major part of the “magic” in MagicBand. Apple Pay will also make use of this system in much the same way MagicBand has already, allowing anyone with an Apple Pay enabled device to make contactless payments quickly and easily throughout the Walt Disney World property. This means you will potentially be able to carry just some form of identification and your iPhone with you when traveling around the Walt Disney World Resort. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has already said it’s, “[Apple’s] vision to replace this,” referring to the traditional wallet. The focus right now is on payments but the CEO hinted more may be to come and a digital ID is not a far stretch though some political heavy-lifting will be involved before that ever comes to pass. But it is easy to envision a day at Walt Disney World where you’ll only have to bring your phone and your MagicBand to the park. Less things to lose and worry about, making for just a bit more relaxed time at Walt Disney World parks.
There are other very obvious possibilities as Apple and Disney continue their long-standing partnership. Can it really be long before the Walt Disney Company joins Starwood Hotels that will give their guests the option to open up their room doors with their Apple Watch. Apple Pay is just the start of the digital wallet in Apple’s eyes and for Disney it could mean more and more functionality added into the infrastructure that is already in place for MyMagic+ at Walt Disney World.
Who can use Apple Pay?
At first Apple Pay will only be rolling out in a free update to iOS in October to those of you purchasing an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus in the United States. Apple hopes to bring the service overseas and they have a strong incentive to do so but no timetable was given for that. Those who purchase an Apple Watch and have an iPhone 5 or later will also have access to Apple Pay and that cool, classic Mickey Mouse watch face apple showed off on stage at their latest keynote address. If you haven’t noticed there has been a ton of mentions of Apple but nothing about that other popular phone operating system.
What about Android?
We know, we feel your pain, what about us Android users? After all we had NFC first. Very good point indeed but at least at this time it is unclear whether Disney will allow Google Wallet, Android’s dominant contactless payment system to play nice with Disney pay terminals at least at first when Apple is surely going to want the exclusivity to promote their devices. Even if we weren’t cynical about the partnership or even if Disney would want to allow Google Wallet/Android users to have the same ease of use for payments as Apple device owners we can see why Disney may choose to hold off on accepting Google Wallet for some time. The separate chip on the new iPhones that Apple is calling the “Secure Element” is found on some but not all NFC equipped Android phones. It’s yet another curse of Android fragmentation and one that may make Disney hold off until more devices adapt a more security focused approach to their handling of mobile payments. But fret not for we will ask Disney whether they plan on supporting Android (and even Windows Phone) devices and update you accordingly.
It was an incredible week for Apple and an important week for mobile payments at Walt Disney World and for Disney fans who are beginning to truly see the benefits of a modern world. Some might see this as just a small convenience but that is missing the larger picture that Apple and Disney have begun to lay out. Technology is quickly changing the world around us, at a pace never seen before in human history. It has the potential to change the way we look at the world, experience it and even vacation within it.