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The Apple Pay Challenge: Can I Spend A Week Without A Wallet?

Using an iPhone 6 to pay at retailers sounds cool. Let’s see how it works in the real world.

The Apple Pay Challenge: Can I Spend A Week Without A Wallet?
[Photo: courtesy of Apple]

A couple of years ago, for an article in Time magazine, I left my wallet at home for a week and only bought stuff which I could pay for using my Galaxy Nexus phone, using either Google Wallet or Square’s since-discontinued Pay With Square app. I managed to survive, but there were many glitches along the way–some technical, some involving merchants who were unprepared for payments by phone. It was a relief when it was all over and I could go back to credit cards, paper money, and coins.

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But now I’m ready to try it all over again–with my iPhone 6 and Apple Pay, which is rolling out on Monday, October 20.

The Apple Pay app

This isn’t going to be a mere repeat of my earlier test. Google Wallet, particularly in the version I tried in 2012, was a bit of a pain: Even when everything went as advertised, paying with it involved launching an app, entering a PIN code, and tapping the phone on the payment terminal (twice!). It was never clear to me how that was an improvement on swiping a plastic card.

With Apple Pay, by contrast, you simply brandish the phone with your finger on the Touch ID home button and bring it into proximity with the payment terminal. The phone’s screen doesn’t even need to be turned on. And Apple’s list of participating merchants includes Chevron, Office Depot, Panera, Petco, RadioShack, Walgreens, Whole Foods, and other places I actually shop. With any luck, they’ve trained the folks behind the counters to make this all work smoothly.

So in theory, I should be able to do this without major headaches or adjustments to my daily habits. We’ll see. I do reserve the right to let my wife pay for things if she happens to be around. And if the whole experiment is a fiasco, I will sheepishly terminate it before its scheduled conclusion next Sunday.

I’ll report back here on FastCompany.com with news about the project as it happens, and, more frequently, on Twitter. Wish me luck, won’t you?

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About the author

Harry McCracken is the technology editor for Fast Company, based in San Francisco. In past lives, he was editor at large for Time magazine, founder and editor of Technologizer, and editor of PC World.

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