Apple Pay isn’t the only game in town anymore, because owners of a recent Samsung Galaxy phone can now tap to pay with a technology that should work everywhere.
If the cards in your wallet or clutch are getting a little long in the tooth, or broken and battered every time you take them out to tap, and you own a Samsung phone, there could be good news on the horizon.
This week, Samsung has chosen Australia to be the fifth place its contactless payment solution launches, behind that of the US, Korea, China, and Spain, and ahead of the likes of the UK, Canada, and Brazil later this year, with Singapore very shortly.
Being placed fifth is a big deal, and part of why this is happening is that Australians are “tech forward” according to Elle King, Vice President of Samsung Pay.
“Australia has the highest NFC market,” said King. “Tap and Pay is everywhere. If we want to replace every card in your wallet, what we don’t want to have is someone worried if it’s going to work or not.”
Being concerned if your phone can replace every card is a big deal, because the other payment solutions out there rely on NFC or “Near-Field Communication”, and while that’s the basic mechanism of what makes a contactless system work — for services like PayWave, PayPass, Apple Pay, and Android Pay — it’s not the be-all end-all.
In places like Australia, most of the payment terminals feature NFC, but not all. Around the world, the numbers decrease, and while a brand new shop or café is more than likely to offer an NFC and contactless terminal for you to pay on, there’s no guarantee.
America, for instance, has a larger amount of payment terminals that rely on the magnetic strip. Later on, these will get phased out and replaced, but that leaves a large amount of terminals that can’t use the standard contactless payment technologies being leveraged by the likes of Apple or Google.
Samsung’s solution is a little different relying instead on both the NFC and a piece of hardware inside its phones.
Found specifically in the 2015 and 2016 range, Samsung has built in what it says is a magnetic coil, and when connected with Magnetic Secure Transaction technology or “MST”, the phone can fire up that coil and tell older terminals that it is running a magnetic strip payment, just like an older card might.
If the terminal supports magnetic strips specifically without NFC, you can use Samsung Pay-enabled phones and hold them to the side of where the strip reader sits, with the terminal picking up on the coil and its signal here.
However, if you’re using a new terminal, Samsung Pay will work with the NFC reader technology, allowing you to pay using the newer standard.
“No matter what the machine is, our solution will work,” said King.
And that’s the point here, because while shops in Australia might allow ApplePay to work, not all will around the world, and you might have to reach for that wallet to pay instead of something with the security of your mobile which requires your fingerprint to authenticate and approve.
As for if this will work for you, there are two requirements to make it happen: phone and bank card.
The phone side is quite friendly, with any of the 2015 Samsung flagships working, as well as the 2016 flagships, covering the Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge+, Galaxy Note 5, and both of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge smartphones.
The card, however, is a touch more complicated, with the launch of Samsung Pay only offering two partners this week: American Express and Citibank.
Unfortunately, the availability of other partners including local banking partners is a touch murky.
“We’ve been working with Australian partners for the past three years,” said Prasad Gokhale, Vice President of Samsung’s Mobile Division in Australia, who also said that the announcement of American Express and Citibank comes from a global partnership.
“In terms of other Australian financial institutions, we’re working very hard to integrate their experiences,” said Gokhale, who also admits that “it will take a little bit of time” to bring other partners on board.
So the answer to that is right now, at least in the short term, if you want to use Samsung Pay, you will need a Citibank or American Express card, with potential partners such as ANZ, CommBank, St. George, and Westpac missing in action at launch.
We’re told it’s coming, and that Samsung will fill us in when it does, but unless you’re using American Express or Citibank as it is, Samsung Pay is currently off limits for you, and you’ll have to continue using whatever solution your bank is peddling, or wait until Google gets its act together and makes Android Pay properly live in Australia, because that has the support of pretty much everyone.