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Brits are going wild for “quite impressive” Apple Pay

Apple Pay launches in the U.K.Apple Pay launches in the U.K.
Leapfrogging over Crisp & PIN technology as of today.Photograph by Chris Ratcliffe — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Apple Pay launched in the U.K. Tuesday, the first time that Apple Inc.’s (AAPL) much-touted mobile payments system has been seen outside the U.S..

Now, you might be thinking that the curmudgeonly, Olde Worlde Brits might not go for all the hype and ballyhoo that attends the typical Apple launch. But you’d be mistaken. Albion was positively submerged in a wave of hyperbole:

Well, ok, some of the tech-savvy crew were a little more, um, free and easy with expressing their joy, but it still couldn’t get them over their essential Britishness:

The #Firstworldproblem came to a head in London’s subway system, where the ticket readers are on the passenger’s right…

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There was more than a little peevishness among those who don’t have a spare $500 at the fact that Apple has only enabled ApplePay for the iPhone 6, 6 Plus and Apple Watch.

After the sheer thrill of the novelty, the next biggest pleasure the launch afforded the average Brit was the opportunity to indulge his favorite pastime: moaning about his bank. Barclays plc (BCS), which has its own rival contactless payment system, Lloyds Banking Group plc (LYG) and HSBC plc (HSBC), which ducked out of being one of Apple’s ‘launch partners’ at short notice, were called out in no uncertain terms.

(Barclays was shamed into saying that it would after all support ApplePay “in the future” by lunchtime in London.)

But yes, overall, it’s fair to say that the response to ApplePay was a bit lukewarm…

…although it wasn’t clear how many of the negative tweets were about the banks, rather than the app itself.

One of the reasons for that might be that Near Field Communication is already a pretty well-established technology in the U.K.: over 100 million pounds ($160 million) a month is spent through contactless payments, up threefold over a year ago, with an average of some 370 transactions a minute, according to the U.K. Cards Association.

Apple isn’t even the first smartphone maker to offer the service: mobile network operator EE’s Cash on Tap service, which works with Android phones made by Samsung, Sony and HTC, is already accepted at 300,000 points across the country (Apple boasted 250,000 today).

What EE doesn’t have, of course, is an army of retailers from McDonald’s (MCD) to Whole Foods Inc. (WFM) desperate to cover themselves in a little Cupertino stardust.


On the plus side, nor does it have a bunch of wiseguys trying to confuse hapless sales assistants first thing in the morning…