Apple's Embarrassing Apple Pay Infomercial

Apple's Embarrassing Apple Pay Infomercial

Ben Thompson has a great piece on Apple's failure to articulate "Why" when introducing the Apple Watch. On Twitter, someone else pointed out that in the same press conference, they did articulate the "Why" for Apple Pay.

He's right, they did. But the problems they demonstrated were exaggerated and silly. More damning still, Apple Pay doesn't actually solve any of them. It felt like an infomercial except the product being hawked doesn't even solve the trumped-up problems.

What problems do we see here (or, more accurately said, what is this video trying to present as problems)? First, finding your wallet. Second, handing the card over. Third, showing your ID. Fourth, swiping. Fifth, waiting for the payment to process. Sixth, handing the card back.

Every single one of these are either not actual problems, or not actually solved by Apple Pay.

  • Finding your wallet
    • No different than finding your phone
  • Handing the card over
    • Most merchants have you swipe, not them
  • Showing your ID
    • Most merchants don't ask to see your ID
  • Swiping
    • No different than tapping an NFC reader
  • Waiting
    • Does Apple Pay not have to verify payment? Somehow I doubt that.
  • Handing the card back
    • Again, most merchants have you swipe

There is a good use case for Apple Pay, which Tim Cook articulated after the video (and later, Eddy Cue). Namely, security. That's almost the only real benefit, but it's a powerful one.

In fact, I'm not really convinced that Apple thinks the problems in their intro video are real problems. Almost everything they talked about afterwards addressed actual issues - security, having to cancel your card, online purchases without having to re-enter your card info, etc.

So why did they use that video? Who knows. I don't think this says anything important about Apple; every company has missteps. Perhaps the same people that greenlit those embarrassing Genius commercials got the informercial video into the presentation.

Apple is a little ahead of the game. The move to EMV cards that's coming for the U.S. (it's been in Europe for years) is going to create some real frustration around using credit cards.

But let's hope they drop the informercial angle in their future marketing.