We’re at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, bringing you the latest smartphone news straight from the show floor. Keep an eye out for all our coverage here.
The UK is a bit forgotten when it comes to contactless payment. While we’ve had Apple Pay since July last year and even have some snazzy Topshop accessories for Barclays’ bPay system, Android Pay has resolutely withheld from these shores. Launched in the US in September and later rolling out to Australia, we’ve had no news of a UK launch or even confirmation that there’ll be one.
So we were excited to hear that Samsung’s version of contactless payment is coming, though we don’t yet have a date. Samsung announced the news alongside five other countries, beginning with China in March and rolling out to the UK “later in 2016.” Whether that means a few weeks later or more towards Christmas we don’t yet know, but it’s good to hear it’s on its way.
Using Samsung Pay
You’ll be able to use Samsung Pay in the UK with American Express, MasterCard and Visa cards from providers including MBNA (who provide most non-bank credit cards), Nationwide and Santander, and Samsung have confirmed it’ll also work with Transport for London – so you’ll be able to touch into the tube with your Samsung phone.
It only works on Samsungs, unsurprisingly, being available on all S6 phones and the new Galaxy S7 range, plus the 2016 version of the Galaxy A5. It’s also on the Note 5, but despite originally planning to launch that here, Samsung have now changed their minds. Sigh.
Is it better than Apple Pay?
Both Samsung and Apple Pay use Near Field Communication (NFC) to make contactless payments. That means they work with the newer contactless payment terminals in shops. However, Samsung’s version also uses a second technology, Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST), which imitates the magnetic strip on your credit card. That means it works with older machines that have a magnetic stripe reader, although those are far more common in the US than the UK. So, in short, Samsung can offer payment at more retailers than Apple currently does.
The process works in a similar way, with users swiping, then scanning their fingerprint to pay for purchases:
While it’s great news that Samsung’s payment tech is coming to this country, we’d still like to see a more universal solution on offer. Company-specific payment solutions like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and bPay are great for the corporation: it’s a clear point of difference against their competitors. But it’s not as good for consumers. A system that worked across all smartphones would be a more positive step, and Android Pay was halfway there, but it remains to be seen whether we’ll ever get it in the UK.
It’s likely to be tricky to convince big banks to keep signing up to more and more proprietary payment systems, which involves extra work in terms of maintenance and support. If one solution is going to win out, we’d like it to be one that works across multiple phone manufacturers. Still, it’s undoubtedly excellent news that Android users now have a smartphone payment solution to rival Apple Pay, and with the new Galaxy phones likely to be among the most popular on the market, Samsung Pay is a step forward for ‘droid fans who like buying things. That’ll be all of them, then.
Main image: Samsung