Apple Pay and Google Wallet are two of the most popular mobile payment technologies in the world. Launched in 2011, Google Wallet was the first — Apple Pay only came out in late 2014.
Although they are rival payment options, Apple Pay and Google Wallet share a lot in common:
- Both allow users to upload credit card details into their mobile devices.
- Both use a form of tokenization to hide personal account numbers (PANs) during transactions.
- Both use near field communication (NFC), allowing shoppers to make purchases without physically touching merchants' payment terminals. To complete a transaction, Apple users employ Touch ID — Google users enter in a special PIN.
Given the similarities between these two mobile payment systems, why should a customer (or merchant) choose one over the other?
The Primary Differences between Apple Pay and Google Wallet
Arguably the biggest difference between these two technologies is size — or more appropriately, awareness.
Although Google Wallet has been around much longer, Apple Pay has made a much bigger splash in the retail world. The introduction of this newer technology was a highly publicized event — one that almost eclipsed the simultaneous launch of the much-anticipated iPhone 6.
Further fueling this fire was Apple's wise decision to secure merchant buy-in by signing agreements with more than 220,000 restaurants and retail stores. As a result, Apple Pay hit the ground running. In fact, it registered over 1 million new users in its first 72 hours alone.
But all of that is just publicity. Under the hood, how do these technologies differ?
Apple Pay is only available for later versions of the iPhone, iPad and the newly introduced Apple Watch. The necessary technology comes preinstalled on these devices.
By contrast, Google Wallet works on most Android devices, and there is also an app for the iPhone. But in nearly all cases, users must actively download Google Wallet to their respective devices. This deliberate step partially explains why Google Wallet's adoption rate has been relatively slow.
2. Credit Card Registration
Apple makes uploading payment information very easy. For those who already have credit cards logged in iTunes, they merely have to authorize Apple Pay. That's a powerful advantage when you consider Apple has more than 800 million paying customers in its iTunes store.
To add a new credit card, all you need to provide is a name, 16-digit number, expiration date and security code.
Google Wallet allows more types of payment options to be uploaded. But it also requires a lot more information. In addition to basic credit card data, Google also asks for Social Security numbers, postal addresses, bank routing numbers and even banking passwords.
Why is all this extra information required? Read on.
Apple has no interest in what you buy or how you shop. All sensitive financial data remains hidden from view, and only payment processors and banks have access to this information. Some analysts speculate that Apple Pay's primary purpose is to boost hardware sales of Apple's product line. In fact, the new mobile payment technology is actually a loss leader (i.e. Apple loses money with each transaction).
Google Wallet uses a form of tokenization to keep customer information safe (it stores payment details in its cloud servers). But the company actively collects, uses and potentially sells customer data. Google’s business model revolves around advertising — not hardware.
For many shoppers, this invasion of privacy can be a major turnoff.
Which Mobile Payment Option Should You Add to Your Store?
Fortunately, you probably won't have to decide between accepting Apple Pay or Google Wallet. Merchants with NFC terminals can process payments using either platform. Although some carriers and card issuers may reject transactions, these are more "software" issues and not "hardware" ones.