And in some ways, his point is totally valid. When it comes down to it, he cannot use his phone to pay for things, something that most phones have supported for years—in Apple’s case, since at least 2014.
But his target is off the mark. The thing is, the reason he’s not able to do so, comes down to a mixture of his own personal lifestyle, his location (i.e. this is a U.S.-only problem that many other parts of the world don’t have), and a concerted effort at industry resistance that long predates his complaint.
To explain this, let me note that despite NFC clearly having the inside line as a successful payment technology for years, thanks to the support of both mobile and the banking industry, retailers in the U.S. saw the rise of mobile phones as an opportunity to get around something that had been bugging them for years—interchange fees, or “swipe fees.”
See, when debit cards first went into wide use, retailers were charged expensive interchange fees every time a transaction took place. These fees are comparable to, say, the 30 percent cut that everyone’s always complaining about with the App Store
, if at a smaller scale.
For understandable reasons, and keeping in mind some early success stories such as Starbucks, mobile was seen as an opportunity to wrestle away some control from the banking industry, making them closer in use case to, say, gift cards
. Retailers such as Walmart, which were large enough that they could feasibly push a standard on their own, took the opportunity to support new mobile standards, most notably in the form of Merchant Customer Exchange
(MCX). But their attempts at standards-making just couldn’t compete
with a solution that was christened by the phone-makers themselves, complete with built-in hardware.