Mobile Wallet: Apple Pay in UK, smartwatches in future

For me, as a wallet geek, the most interesting thing about the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference was not the song & dance about Apple Music but that Apple Pay is finally coming to the UK – in July!


In terms of impetus, as important as the payment aspect is that the Apple Passbook app – now renamed Apple Wallet – will allow you to store your loyalty/rewards cards digitally within, and so potentially create a much more compelling reason for consumers to ‘go mobile’, as we stated in our self funded research in 2014.

A third element – which is probably more of a 2016 and beyond influence – is the rise of smartwatches. Our new survey results suggest some interesting impetus there for mobile wallet in the UK – covered later in this article.

WWDC 2015

Anyway, I believe Apple Pay will take off more quickly in the UK than the US. Here the infrastructure in terms of contactless terminals is pretty advanced compared to the US (they still use magnetic strip swiping over there, let alone chip & pin – let alone contactless). Also, in the UK most of the big banks, credit card companies and a good swathe of retailers have signed up, meaning it will be available at more than 250,000 locations here, more than in the US at their launch last October. With TfL on board, and with its higher proportion of early adopter consumers London will lead the way.

So Apple Pay will be supported by 70% of the credit & debit cards in the UK, and the retailers below. My own experience of using contactless payment cards in the UK is that among retailers offering it, staff awareness & knowledge varies quite a bit – this can have a big impact on take up. The express check out at M&S Winchester is probably the best, but then they have benefited  from my unusual interest in the subject as I buy my daily burrito wrap…

Apple Pay Retailers WWDC 2015



Another crucial element of course is brand trust, as we have been tracking here since summer 2014. We’ve just completed our 4th quarterly survey looking at which brands UK smartphone owners would trust to deliver a mobile wallet app; the June results are shown below.

The Trust Rankings have been remarkably consistent throughout with PayPal continuing to lead the way. Apple and Google both have a very solid platform of trust to launch UK mobile wallets but I suspect Apple will gradually pull away over the next year, thanks mainly to greater awareness through its massive marketing clout, plus iPhone 6 sales.

Mobile Wallet trust chart June 2015



Smartwatches haven’t really taken off yet, up to now being a combination of ugly, clunky, expensive with poor battery life and without a compelling reason to use, especially if you already own a Fitbit or Jawbone or suchlike. This is beginning to change in 2015 although I maintain no single smartwatch has unticked all those boxes yet.

What does interest me is whether your typical smartphone user sees the smartwatch as having a potential role to play in mobile wallet or payments. My estimate of 1 in 10 choosing it over a smartphone wasn’t far out (13%) but I was surprised that a quarter of the 18-24 age group said they would use it instead of a phone (and a fifth of 25-34s).

Although this is a bit ‘projective’ as smartwatch ownership is so low, this does suggest to me that a good proportion of the core tech buying public already recognise the watch as the more natural vehicle for paying or swiping a digital loyalty card at the till.

Smartwatch chart June 2015

We will continue to track wallet brand trust and smartwatch interest as the UK market develops over the rest of this year and into 2016, and will keep you posted via this blog. Things certainly just got a whole lot more interesting!

Richard Snoxell is a Research Director in the Technology & Financial team and a specialist in mobile wallet / payments

STOP PRESS: Click here to register for Richard’s free webinar ‘Apple Pay & mobile wallet: the Future of Payments?’  –  2pm, Thurs 1st October. Richard will cover: 

  • Key features that will drive consumer appeal for mobile wallets (as well as concerns) 
  • Which brands UK consumers would trust as providers of a wallet app 
  • The appeal of the smartwatch for mobile payments  

Brand Trust survey conducted 5-7th June 2015 via nationally representative online omnibus. Sample universe = UK smartphone owners (1,498)

Previous articles can be found at:

The Apple WWDC images sourced at:

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Richard Snoxell
01962 842211
Article date - 10/06/2015
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