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Apple Pay: Love Notes And Dear John Letters

Valentine’s Day in 2015 is a bit unique – it is cursed. Or at least many people might believe it is cursed, especially those who either suffer from triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13) or paraskavedekatriaphobia (fear of Friday the 13th), because this year the national celebrations of love on Saturday, Feb. 14, will immediately follow our national celebrations of superstition on Friday, Feb. 13.

And while it is easy to just dismiss fear of the 13th as a ridiculous holdover belief from the time when people thought the world was flat – it would actually explain why Boston seems to be setting up for yet another blizzard on Saturday! Yes, those of us who live in Boston do believe we are cursed.

It also might start to explain the somewhat strange week Apple Pay is having. Cupertino’s favorite company has gotten its share of love notes this week – from JetBlue, its investors, and its CEO – but it’s also gotten some fairly surprising “Dear John” style break-up notes.

Want to know what happened? We’ve got you covered. And we even included the Valentine’s sentiments that we think go along with all of this news.


Love Letters

“Oh Apple Pay, as a mobile platform,

you have no equal in our eyes,

You are the only one with whom,

we’d want to fly the friendly skies

We dumped our legacy payments systems,

because they just didn’t compare,

‘cuz we think there’s just no better way to pay

when you’re hurtling through the air.

     -JetBlue

Apple Pay is hitting the stratosphere. Literally.

Starting next week, passengers on some JetBlue Airways flights will be able to use Apple Pay to buy food and drinks once cruising altitude is reached. Users will also be able to use Apple Pay to upgrade their seats (though not while inflight)

This move makes JetBlue the first airline to fly the friendly skies with Apple. The airline will also allow customers to make payments from their Apple Watches when that tech debuts later this year.

“The sky is definitely not the limit when it comes to mobile payments with Apple Pay,” said Marty St. George, a senior vice president at JetBlue.

To make the payments possible, JetBlue has replaced its old mPay system, using instead custom outfitted iPad Minis with NFC-capable cases. 3,500 inflight crew members will be receiving the new devices.

You’ll remember that United was the first airline, however, to give its flight attendants Apple iPhone 6’s so…maybe there’s an Apple Pay moment in their future soon, as well.


Roses are red

Violets are blue

Apple Pay Rules!

(And We Love Solar Power Too.)

     -Tim Cook

On the day that Apple became the first U.S. company to end its business day with a market capitalization above $700 billion, CEO Tim Cook told an investment-conference audience that Apple Pay is rolling out “much faster” than he expected, and that was in April.

During the April earnings call, Cook also said Apple would announce its plans to distribute some of the $180 billion it’s holding in cash and securities to shareholders.

The company has been under pressure from Carl Icahn to return that money to investors (see later love note), although the large bank balance hasn’t hurt Apple’s share price.

And – true to Apple form – there’s one more thing: Apple has cut an $848 million deal to become the solar-energy industry’s largest commercial user.


Love with other’s mWallet’s,

hasn’t always worked out in the past,

We thought we loved Square

But we couldn’t make it last,

But Apple Pay, you’re so sexy we have to give you a try,

But this time we’ll go slow, because we’re just a little shy.

     – Starbucks

Starbucks announced this week that it will start taking Apple Pay.

Sort of. A little bit. They’re still casually dating.

Caffeine enthusiasts cannot use Apple Pay to purchase good and services from Starbucks directly. What customers can now do is reload their Starbucks cards using Apple’s payments service.

Those gift cards are then used within Starbucks’ own very successful mobile wallet.

Starbucks was listed as an Apple Pay app partner when Apple Pay launched in October, but not as retail partner. Starbucks remains committed to its current bar code-based system for in-store purchases.

America’s coffee shop is not currently equipped with the NFC technology that would enable Apple Pay. Currently, Starbucks has not announced plans to implement NFC any time soon.


Oh Apple how I love thee,

let me count the [billion] ways,

The thing I love most about you,

is how well your shareholders get paid.

    – Carl Icahn

Carl Icahn may be a living testament to the concept of the squeaky wheel getting the grease. It seems he has brought Apple CEO Tim Cook around to his opinion that Apple should redistribute some of its massive ($180 billion) pile of cash to its shareholders.

Apple, generated an astonishing $33.7 billion in cash from operations in the last three months of 2014 alone. To put Apple’s cash holding in context – Cuppertino could pay off the entirety of the New York State’s annual budget (New York has the largest budget of any U.S. state)  and still have over $50 billion left in cash. Treasury only has $49 billion to hand to keep the government working.

Icahn for his part was clearly pleased with Cook’s announcement, writing on his own blog:

“It is now plainly obvious to us that there will be no stopping Apple’s peerless innovation track record and best-in-class ecosystem of services, software, and hardware, and that Apple will continue dominating the premium smartphone market by continuing to take premium market share from Google’s Android operating system (and Android-device manufacturers) while at the same time maintaining or growing average selling prices and gross margins. We look forward to the introduction of the Apple Watch in April, as well as the launch of other new products in new categories."


Dear John Letters

You were the wings beneath our wings,

together we launched a thousand (or more) mPOS things

One of these really thought

We might even exchange rings   

But now you’re pushing Apple Pay,

And that breaks our heart – dagnabit.

You’ve really left us just no choice,

We might  just build our own tablet.   

     -Square

Though speculating as to whether or not Apple is going to acquire Square has essentially been the payment’s ecosystem’s favorite pastime for the last several years, it seems that for its part, Square is looking to put distance between itself and Cupertino.

Square is allegedly working on a modified Android tablet of its own that would step in to replace the Square Register powered by iPad. Reports also indicate this particular project is in its early development phase and could still quite possibly never see the light of day.

So why now?

Analysts speculate that the move is defensive on Square’s part. By developing this alternative now, Square could possible avoid future complications if Apple should decided to block the current compatibility with Square Register.


NFC, oh NFC,

We pledged our allegiance to you

Exclusively.

But Apple’s mWallet is out there

and everyone says it is unequaled?

Looks like it’s time for us to be moving on.

And start seeing other people.  

     – Google

It seems Google might be considering moving beyond NFC in its quest to compete with Apple Pay, according to new data published in The Information.

The search-giant has reportedly been quietly testing a contextually-aware mobile, bluetooth-based payment system codenamed “Plaso” both in-house and with some select retailers like Papa John’s and Panera Bread.

So how does Google’s new “contextually aware” payments system work?  Details are sparse, but it seems that the basic idea is to allow a customer to either select an object in store (or potentially pre-select an item online in advance of arrival) and present themselves to the cashier with their purchase and initials.

The cashier locates said initials from a list of Plaso-enabled devices within Bluetooth range of the retail clerk’s device, which ensures the customer is actually present in the store.

Instead of pitching toward NFC, it seems Google Wallet 2.0 is investing its faith in Bluetooth and its potential to be a mobile proximity identifier.

Some details remain sketchy, namely how exactly the clerk bills the consumer.  The TI report does not explain how exactly Plaso payments are processed, though sources said to be knowledgeable on the matter have affirmed that only a smartphone is necessary to conduct transactions.

One possible answer is that this new system will allow the initial transaction to go through Google, with the vendor’s payment processor completing the business end of the deal.

Finally, it is not clear from the report if Google will be offering the Plaso service in place of the NFC-based Google Wallet, or as an addition to it. Google has struggled with the NFC wallet through various iterations and has failed to capture significant consumer or merchant interest thus far. Though the service has seen some recent gains, those gains seem to be unfortunately linked to the rising popularity of of Google’s direct competitor in the mobile wallet space –  the also NFC-backed Apple Pay.


We had a good thing,

you guys and me.

And Apple Pay’s success

I would have liked to see.

But the grass is always greener, that’s what people say

So, I’m on my way to check it out with those nice folks at eBay.  

    – Bora Chung

Online payments expert Bora Chung will reportedly leave Apple for eBay, marking the second such instance of eBay recruiting away from Apple to boost its own payment technologies. Reports indicate that eBay Chief Product Officer RJ Pittman, himself once a member of the Apple e-commerce team, was responsible for nabbing Chung.

Chung’s hire is part of Pittman’s plan to boost the new division, which focuses on payments technology innovation in preparation for PayPal’s independence day. Experts see PayPal’s spin-off as a fork in the road for eBay: While the two could theoretically continue a partnership, most likely eBay will have to launch its own, new payments platform to stay in the game, especially as Apple Pay threatens a retail revolution.

Reports note that Chung had already spent time at PayPal as chief of staff to Dana Stalder, the company’s senior vice president of global consumer and merchandise services. While at PayPal, Chung served as senior director for its Branded Checkout unit. While Chung’s return to eBay could spark a new mobile payments race with Apple, reports say the hire is also part of eBay’s efforts to remain competitive in the e-commerce world as new competition creeps closer. China’s Alibaba, especially, is a looming threat to eBay as the firm readies to bring its e-commerce prowess to the U.S.

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