As part of the Apple Watch’s unveiling in September, Apple said the watch would take advantage of Apple Pay, the company’s solution for secure contactless payments via the iPhone, but didn’t offer many details beyond that.
But thanks to CNET, which caught up with Apple’s VP of software Eddy Cue, we have a much better idea of how the Apple Watch and Apple Pay will work together.
On the iPhone, Apple Pay works when you hold your iPhone 6 to a specialised near-field communication (NFC) pad, choose your credit card from the Passbook application, and hold your finger on the Touch ID fingerprint sensor.
The Apple Watch also has an NFC chip like the iPhone 6, but since the Watch lacks a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, users have to either a) enter a password on the watch, or b) touch the fingerprint sensor on their phone while wearing the Watch.
Thankfully, you won’t need to input a password or use Touch ID every single time you want to use Apple Pay on the Apple Watch: After you’ve entered the password once, you’ll be able to make payments so long as the Apple Watch stays on your wrist. But, once you take Apple Watch off your wrist, you’ll need to pair your smartphone with your watch when you put it back on again, either by entering a physical password or using Touch ID on the phone.
You don’t have to authenticate on the phone. Your watch has to be unlocked, and your phone can unlock your watch. If I took my watch off and gave it to you, it would know and no longer work. If I wanted to pay right now, I could pay with the watch and not have to take the phone out of my pocket.
Cue says there will be a stronger Apple Pay security setting available, which would require a password for every payment made through Apple Watch, “but you normally won’t have to,” he says.
Luckily for owners of older iPhones, Apple Pay will still work on the Watch with those devices. Cue says all you’ll need to do is type in a passcode on the watch or iPhone while wearing the Watch, and it will unlock the device. This will work for the iPhone 5, 5C, and 5S, as well as the 6 and 6 Plus.
Apple will unveil more details about the Apple Watch at its media event on Monday.