Apple Pay went live in the UK this morning.
More than 250,000 locations in the UK are set up to accept Apple Pay at launch, with support from Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander, Natwest, Halifax, and Lloyds. HSBC isn’t supporting the service until later in the month, despite leaking the launch date in an accidental Tweet yesterday.
I did a quick lap of Liverpool Street station to see how many blank faces I met with when trying to use my phone to make a payment. But it worked pretty well. Apple Pay lets users pay for items at contactless payment terminals using their iPhone or Apple Watch, and plenty of stores in London and the rest of the UK are already set up to take contactless payments.
At Pret and M&S, I just went to the till, waved my phone at the cashier, held my phone next to the contactless terminal with my finger on the Touch ID, and the payment went through. I didn’t even have to open the Passbook app. A few moments later, I had a notification drop down at the top of my iPhone screen to tell me that the Natwest card attached to Apple Pay had made a purchase, and how much had been spent.
At WHSmith, I picked up a bottle of water and took it to a self-service till, picked the card payment option, and used Apple Pay instead of a physical card.
When I tried to pick a few things up at Boots and Starbucks, however, Apple Pay let me down. At Boots, I had to put my phone next to the terminal, move it away, and then put it back again several times before the payment went through. That could have been because I was too slow to put my finger on the Touch ID, though.
In Starbucks, just waving your phone at the barista doesn’t work quite as well, because the coffee chain also takes mobile payments through its own app. But once I had specified that I wanted to make a contactless payment, she understood what I was talking about. Again, it took quite a few tries to get Apple Pay to register that it was close to a terminal, and I was left with this screen for a while:
Using Apple Pay in a store isn’t quite as fast as using a contactless card if you already have one in your hand, which a lot of British shoppers have been used to doing for a while now. But for its first morning in the UK, Apple Pay worked pretty well, and was faster than digging my wallet out of my handbag every time I went to pay.
Most of the stores I tried were named Apple Pay partners, and all of them were already set up to take contactless payments. I also haven’t tried it out on the Apple Watch yet, or checked out whether it works on the tube.