New iPhones can't be used here to 'tap and pay'

The latest Apple iPhone has finally included a chip that potentially allows users to tap and pay, a function already offered by other smartphones.

But users of the newly-released iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will not be able to use the phones to tap and pay for goods and services here using near field communications (NFC). Not that iPhone users seem to mind.

NFC is a short-range wireless communication technology that transmits data between a mobile device and a reader. In Singapore, NFC payment is accepted by 30,000 retail points, including stores like Watsons, G2000 and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

But the authorities said the latest Apple handsets have not been approved for payment use here.

A spokesman for EZ-Link, which is owned by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), told The Straits Times that it "has yet to work with Apple on their product certification and testing". EZ-Link is part of a consortium that runs the government-backed system that lets consumers pay by tapping NFC-supported mobile phones. Only NFC handsets that follow the national standard - the Contactless e-Purse Application Standard (Cepas) found in every ez-link card - can be used here.

Certification is done by the consortium, which also includes SingTel, StarHub, M1, Citibank Singapore, DBS Bank and smart card chip maker Gemalto.

So far, only about 25 handsets have been certified. They include the latest HTC One, LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy S5 models.

Apple has reportedly put its NFC chip on "lockdown", restricting its use to only its new mobile payments platform, Apple Pay.

When contacted, Apple would say only that Apple Pay will be available in the United States from next month. It declined to comment on when it will open up its NFC chip for other uses and if the phones will eventually work with the NFC payment system in Singapore.

Users will also not be able to use the iPhones to connect with NFC accessories such as printers and speakers. But iPhone users interviewed said they do not mind.

Student Donovan Koh, 23, said he has no plans to use the phone's NFC feature anyway - except for payment for bus and train rides, which is not available here yet. "To me, that is the real killer application," said Mr Koh.

Safety manager Koh Bian Chong, 32, said he would rather use his credit card. "I consolidate my spending on one credit card to get points," he said.


This article was first published on September 23, 2014.
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