Did you grow up with a sibling, or maybe you currently have a neighbor, who always seems compelled to outdo whatever you’re up to?
You made the school basketball team; your brother made the all-state squad.
You ran for class treasurer; your sister entered the race for class president on a whim — and won.
You get a shiny new push lawnmower; the next day, your neighbor has a 34-foot yacht in his driveway.
Though they certainly don’t bear anything resembling a familial — or even friendly — bond, Samsung and Apple (along with Google’s Android) are nonetheless entangled in a mutual desire to gain more media attention, and therefore more consumer traction, than the other for its competing products in a shared space.
When Samsung Pay reaches the U.S. next week, it will be just under a full year since Apple Pay made its debut in that marketplace. The former company seemed poised, at long last, to step out of the shadow of its more popular stateside competitor and have majority share of consumer eyes on it — at least for a little while.
But rival Apple couldn’t even let it have that.
Apple Pay Goes To China
“Oh, you’re finally getting around to showing up in the U.S., Samsung Pay? That’s cool — but been there, done that. We’re going to China.”
Having reportedly registered an entity in the Shanghai free-trade zone late last week, all signs point to the likelihood that Apple CEO Tim Cook is following through on his previously expressed desire to expand the company’s mobile wallet into China — where he believes the service will be more popular than it is in the United States.
“We want to bring Apple Pay to China,” Cook told China’s Xinhua News Agency last year. “I’m convinced there will be enough people that want to use it. It’s going to be successful.”
“China is a really key market for us,” he continued. “Everything we do, we are going to work it here. Apple Pay is on the top of the list.”
And now it looks like Apple is closer than ever to checking off that item.
…While Doubling Down In The U.S. (Plus Mexico And Canada)
Its focus on China aside, Apple apparently still wasn’t content to let Samsung grab all the press in the United States.
Major electronics retailer Best Buy (which also has locations in Mexico and Canada) recently confirmed that it has begun testing its checkout systems for NFC capability, indicating that the chain will be able to accept contactless payments like Apple Pay (as well as Android Pay) later this year.
With its contract with retail consortium MCX (owner of the CurrentC mobile wallet) having ended late in the summer, Best Buy — which has been accepting Apple Pay in its mobile app since April — wasted little time in going all-in with Apple’s mobile payment tech.
Nevertheless, there remains a bright side for Samsung.
Backed By Big Numbers, Samsung Takes A Big Swing
Samsung knows full well that its mobile wallet has a key differentiator from Apple Pay in that Samsung Pay works with both NFC-enabled and older MST (Magnetic Secure Transmission) checkout systems. As Apple Pay (as is the case with Android Pay) currently only works with NFC terminals, that means that Samsung Pay, for the time being, is able to be used at a greater number of merchants than its primary competitors.
That flexibility contributed to Samsung Pay accounting for more than $30 million in 1.5 million total transactions during the first month of its inaugural rollout in South Korea (where it debuted in August), when as much as 10 percent of consumers used the service on a daily basis.
In the commercial, set to a beat-dropping cover of “My Favorite Things” (from “The Sound Of Music”), consumers are depicted using Samsung Pay at a variety of terminals to purchase whatever their hearts presumably desire. Notably, the action comes to a grinding halt when someone attempts to make a purchase with Apple Pay — and the service doesn’t work. Then the spot resumes with a flurry of successful Samsung Pay transactions.
Driving home Samsung Pay’s touted advantage over Apple Pay – acceptance in most every merchant with an electronic terminal – the ad concludes with the simple line of text: “The most accepted mobile payment” (followed by the Samsung tagline, “It’s not a phone, it’s a Galaxy” — which, slightly off-topic, HBO may or may not have an issue with).
What do you have to say about that, Apple?
The iPhone 6S Debuts
Oh, right — you have that to say about it.
Dropping today, the long-awaited (at least since the last version) newest model of the iPhone comes equipped with iOS 9, which was released independently last week.
The good news for Apple, and the maybe not-so-welcome news for Samsung, is that the iPhone 6S, operating as it does on iOS 9, enhances the capabilities of Apple Pay by both providing users with the ability to discover merchants that accept the service as well as allowing its new Wallet — which is replacing Passbook — to integrate loyalty and rewards cards from major U.S. retailers (including Walgreens, Kohl’s, and JC Penney, with more to come).
With regards to its operating system, however, there remains an X factor for Apple — specifically, an XCodeGhost factor.
That Malware Problem
Late last week, Apple’s Chinese App Store was hit by a malware attack — coined “XcodeGhost” by Alibaba researchers because it launches when developers download altered versions of Xcode — that infected a slew of iOS apps created by infected developers. These apps were able to be submitted to the App Store, pass Apple’s code review and were then made available for public download.
Although Apple has since removed the infected apps from its platform (and begun rebuilding them) and made it clear that an upgrade to iOS 9 significantly mitigates the vulnerability of devices operating on it (as well as Apple AirDrop and Mac OS’s file-sharing system), the fact remains that it does not fix the problem entirely. And that’s something that gives iOS loyalists a cause for concern.
So, all told, Samsung will — like the rest of us — have to wait until Monday to see what effect, if any, Apple’s latest moves will have on Samsung Pay’s big U.S. debut.