Android Pay and mobile payment

Where is the NFC antenna?
Who the heck knows.

I tried to use Android Pay twice today and despite both stores’ VeriFone terminals showing (and processing through the flow as if) they supported it, the success rate was only 50%. Android Pay is NFC-based. The time it succeeded, the phone immediately made contact. The time it failed, there was no semblance of any NFC connection. I know the phone’s NFC works in other contexts, so it is something in the technology (hardware, software) or workflow itself that makes it so unreliable. That is not even to mention the annoyance of Android Pay’s particularly patronizing attitude in requiring the phone to be unrooted and requiring a screenlock (even a perfectly insecure one) to be set. If any of those conditions fail for even five minutes, all the added cards are removed and have to be re-added (some banks require calling in for verification).

My point is nobody is going to use this idiotic piece of technology that makes things harder.

But mobile payment is not new. More than five years ago, a company called LevelUp started putting in QR-code based readers around town and having used it, it just works much better.

This just works. Keep it simple.

Not only was the technology potentially compatible with all devices with a display (that is all phones), it’s obviously much cheaper to implement. Even the reader hardware is not strictly necessary as the code can be read from another phone’s camera. In the backend, the charges are aggregated and go to a user-registered card just like any merchant billing. The problem has been practically solved long ago. There was no pressing need to go to an NFC-based solution except for, maybe, accessory devices like watches. Even then…

In comparison, LevelUp has simply worked every single time without fail, and the app even tells you where you can use it. Their business model is also much more symbiotic with the merchant — they take a proportion of revenue resulting from repeat visits and promotions made through LevelUp — rather than middle-manning as a transactional *Pay processor might typically be. It is really incomprehensible to me that LevelUp has not caught on more.

All the while, there is no shortage of other quixotic ideas like Coin and Samsung Pay to try to square the circle, in those cases, through magnetic stripe emulation.

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