If there is at least one positive thing that can be said about the current Covid situation, it is the increasing number of contactless payments and it´s growing social acceptance. During the past 12 months, finally, mobile payment has become common place.
A few years ago, in 2016 however, this still looked different. I remember quiet well how I used to make contactless payments at the point-of-sale (POS) using my Vodafone app with a stored credit card. At least I always kept trying to pay mobile. However, five years ago the acceptance, or rather the awareness´s level of paying with a mobile device in stores, was very low. Frequently comments like “You can’t just put your smartphone on there” or “But I still need a signature from you” made me smile. Fortunately, this is now a thing of the past. Whether contactless with a checking or credit card or with a smartphone – given the current situation, both payment methods can hold their own against cash for the first time.
Mobile Payment with a smartphone
One advantage of paying with a smartphone over a card can be that you don’t have to enter a PIN if you exceed a certain amount. I deliberately use the word “can” here, because I made the experience that this is not always the case. This depends on both the app used and the respective user settings.
But let’s take another step back and start with the common payment service providers and apps. So far, there is no uniform standard for mobile payment in Germany. Users can choose between various offers from smartphone manufacturers, banks, payment service providers or customer loyalty program such as Payback. Currently the best-known players probably are Google Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. Also the smartphone manufacturer Huawei recently launched Huawei Pay in Germany. In the banking and savings banks environment, Deutsche Bank Mobile and the Sparkassen Wallet are just two examples. Near field communication (NFC) technology is used to trigger the payment process. With PaybackPay, on the other hand, the customer simply pays via QR code and automatically collects bonus points in his account.
In this article I´ll deliberately focus on two payment options – Google Pay and Samsung Pay – which I have tested in the last few weeks for their day-to-day suitability.
The pioneer Google Pay
Google launched its payment service in Germany back in June 2018, ahead of Apple Pay and well ahead of Samsung Pay and Huawei Pay, which are still fairly new on the German market.
Initially, Google Pay could only be used if you had a current account or a credit card from one of the participating banks. For all other owners of an Android smartphone, access to Google Pay remained denied. However, that changed just a few months later when Google Pay announced its cooperation with PayPal. While contactless payment was previously limited to only a few banks, any user with a PayPal account could now pay with their smartphone. Only a few steps are necessary to link the PayPal account with Google Pay. During the subsequent payment process, a virtual Mastercard is addressed, which was generated by PayPal during the initial registration.
Samsung Pay is following
Last year in autumn 2020, the smartphone manufacturer Samsung also launched its own payment app in Germany. For using this service, a compatible Samsung Galaxy smartphone or a Galaxy Watch is needed
The setup process differs significantly from that of Google Pay. Those who decide to use Samsung Pay automatically receive an account with Solarisbank, which is opened in the name of the respective user during the registration process. After a successful registration, the customer receives a virtual Visa debit card from Solarisbank, which is used to make contactless payments via the app. Settlement is then made via an external bank account, which must be held at a German bank. Alternatively, the customer can transfer money to his card account at Samsung Pay beforehand. It is not possible to directly deposit one’s own account with Samsung Pay.
The practical test
After successfully installing and setting up both apps, I was curious to see how they would perform in everyday life. Which app would convince me more?
Admittedly, I did not install Google Pay just recently, like the new Samsung Pay app. I am using this payment method for quite a time. Therefore, I have already gathered some experience with it. Mobile payment at the POS terminal is very easy with Google Pay. All you have to do before paying at the cash register is to unlock your smartphone. Whether by PIN, pattern or a biometric method, such as facial recognition or fingerprint, is irrelevant. The only decisive factor is that the smartphone is unlocked and thus a so-called strong customer authentication is present before the smartphone is held up to the POS terminal and the contactless payment is triggered using NFC technology. During the payment process, PayPal’s virtual master debit card automatically opens on the screen and a blue-white check mark informs when the payment process has been successfully completed. I can also see all purchases via Google Pay some time later in the associated app. Additionally, I receive an email from PayPal with the transaction details after the payment has been successfully executed.
And how does Samsung Pay perform in comparison?
My first attempt to pay with Samsung Pay was not an instant success. The problem was not the app, the problem was in front of the phone, aka me. Since I had selected Google Pay as the default payment method via NFC, I automatically paid with it and not with Samsung Pay as intended. Fortunately, this was easily changed and a day later I started my second attempt. At the checkout, I unlocked my smartphone as usual by using my fingerprint and held it up to the POS terminal to pay. But surprisingly, nothing happened. This was because apparently this mobile payment method is not automatically triggered by bringing the smartphone next to the terminal, as it is the case with Google Pay. The virtual VISA card, which is displayed at the bottom of the Samsung smartphone’s screen in the form of a transparent bar, has to actively be swiped in order to open the app. But even after that, it was not possible to pay. It took another step, in which I was asked to reenter my PIN or to verify my fingerprint before I finally could pay contactless by using my smartphone.
Being a loyal Samsung user, I gave the Samsung Pay app a wholeheartedly chance by using it for a few weeks. Although not having had any problems paying with the Samsung Pay, this paying method didn´t convince me. The two required additional steps (opening the app and repeating the verification) in the payment process were the deciding factors to return to Google Pay. For me, simple and fast use in everyday life is the top priority, and Google’s solution comes out on top in this respect.
On the other hand, for users for whom the security aspect is more important Samsung Pay might be the first choice. Additionally, to the higher security aspect of Samsung Pay, this payment method has the bonus, that you don´t have to search for the payment app as the credit card is placed directly at the mobile screen´s bottom and therefore very easily accessed. Also, Samsung Pay is a great alternative for users without a PayPal account.