Sunday, September 18, 2016

Samsung Pay review, as good as it sounds


A couple weeks back, I wrote about my initial experience with mobile payments through Google's Android Pay platform. Since then, I have gotten myself Samsung's new Galaxy Note7 and that opened up the doors for me to try Samsung's very own payment platform called Samsung Pay. As of today, Samsung Pay is only available in 8 countries but Samsung is working towards doubling that number within the next 12 months.

One of the biggest advantage that Samsung Pay has over other mobile payment platforms is it's support for both NFC and MST (abbreviation of Magnetic Security Transmission) transactions. This is the result of Samsung's US$ 250 million acquisition of the startup Looppay which designed the actual technology that enables payments to be made through the magnetic strip of a payment terminal.

Ever since I started using Samsung Pay, I never once looked back. So here's my review.

Samsung Pay launched about a year ago in South Korea and within the last 12 months, Samsung says that their proprietary payment platform has exceeded 100 million transactions. As of today, Samsung Pay supports 11 Galaxy devices, most of them are flagship smartphones that Samsung released in the last year. 

Ultimately, Samsung's goal is to make Samsung Pay accessible to their entire lineup of Galaxy smartphones and possibly even other Android smartphones too but that will probably take a while as the technology trickles down. Similar to other payment platforms out there, Samsung is taking security seriously with their payment platform and that could explain why Samsung Pay is not available for older Galaxy devices.

Samsung Pay device support (as of September 2016)

— Samsung Galaxy S6 (Edge, Edge+ and Active)
— Samsung Galaxy Note5
— Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)
— Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016)
— Samsung Galaxy A9 (2016)
— Samsung Galaxy S7 (Edge and Active)
— Samsung Galaxy Note7
— Samsung Gear S2

Samsung Pay availability (as of September 2016)

— South Korea
— United States
— China
— Spain
— Singapore
— Australia
— Puerto Rico
— Brazil
— United Kingdom (exp. by Q4 2016)
— Malaysia (exp. by Q4 2016)
— Canada (exp. by Q4 2016)
— Russia (exp. by Q4 2016)
— Hong Kong (exp. by Q4 2016)
— Turkey (exp. by 2017)

Using Samsung Pay

Similar to the experience with Android Pay, Samsung Pay is an application that can be downloaded through the Google Play Store but it is only supports select Galaxy smartphones. On a side note, the app is pre-installed on supported devices, so there is no need to download the Samsung Pay app from the Play Store. Setting up the application is pretty self explanatory and you will need to sign in (or sign up) to your Samsung account in order to use Samsung Pay.

Once that's done, you will have the option to add cards to Samsung Pay through the interface. Samsung Pay supports quite a number of credit and debit cards as well as a huge selection of loyalty cards ranging from popular supermarkets all the way to rewards cards for local chains. Bank and vendor support will vary from one region to another so make sure to check if your bank supports Samsung Pay here

While the use of credit/debit cards on Samsung Pay are wholly dependant on your bank, the situation for loyalty cards are much looser. If the loyalty card you want to use is not listed on Samsung Pay, there is an option to manually key in the barcode for that loyalty card directly into the app. Additionally, Samsung Pay will also accept loading gift cards onto the application and there is also the option to purchase gift cards directly from the app itself.

But the million dollar question is, how does Samsung Pay work in the real world. Samsing did a lot of marketing on how their payment platform can be used in more places than their competitors (*in the context of the United States). In practice, I have to say that I am very impressed with the performance of Samsung Pay. I managed to use Samsung Pay as my primary mode of payment since I started using it three weeks ago.

Samsung's Simple Pay UI

Making a payment with Samsung Pay is fairly simple, you could launch the Samsung Pay app and click on the desired card to make a payment but there's an easier way which is Samsung to access Samsung Pay which is through Samsung's Simple Pay UI. Samsung's Simple Pay UI stores cards that are frequently used for easy access and the UI can be accessed from any screen or application with a simple swipe up gesture.

All you have to do to make a payment is to select the card from the interface and authenticate it with your fingerprint (note: Samsung Pay does not support the Galaxy Note7's iris scanner as an authentication mode). You don't even need to turn on NFC or any wireless connection in order to complete transactions. Samsung Pay will intelligently turn on NFC when an NFC payment is detected. Once that's done, it's as simple as placing the phone on the magnetic strip and within the next second, the transaction will be completed.

One thing to note is that for debit cards, you will still need to input your PIN on the payment terminal in order to complete the transaction. But beyond that, making payments with Samsung Pay so easy. It has never actually failed me yet and the only reason it wouldn't complete the transaction imminently is because it takes some practice to know where to put the phone on the manetic strip as each payment terminal is different.
I have tried Samsung Pay at places like Ikea, Safeway, Walmart, a local bookstore, etc. All the transactions went through effortlessly and while there were some cashiers that questioned my use of a phone to make a payment, I did prove them wrong when the transaction went through. Once a payment has been made, a notification will be pushed to your phone notifying that a payment has been made.

One cool thing that I noticed is that the Simple Pay UI can be accessed with a swipe up even when the screen is turned off. This is probably thanks to the AMOLED screen technology that Samsung uses on quite a number of their Galaxy smartphones. This feature is pretty cool but it is a hit or miss in terms of it actually working. Sometimes it requires a second and third swipe in order for the Simple Pay UI to be launched.

Wrap-up


Putting the battery explosion fiasco that has been plaguing the Galaxy Note7 for the last couple of weeks, Samsung Pay is an amazing payment platform in all aspects. Initially, I was considering switching over to an iPhone 7 when more Note7 explosion cases started to crop up but ultimately, I decided to stay with the Note7 and one of my deciding factors was Samsung Pay.

My motivation to try out Samsung Pay was mostly fueled by Samsung's special offer where they are offering US$ 20 for the first Samsung Pay purchase and an additional $5 for refferal(s). Given that, Samsung Pay supports MST transactions, I have yet to come across a store that accepts credit cards and does not accept Samsung Pay. I would say that in the United States, Samsung Pay can be used in virtually everywhere.

Honestly speaking, Samsung Pay has made life a little easier for me. But I still carry around my wallet mostly because of my identification card and to carry some backup cash. Speaking of making life easier, Samsung Pay is still fairly new and compared to Apple Pay, Samsung's bank support is still pretty small. Right now it only supports my BofA card.

In it's current state, Samsung Pay is already very useful. But if there was something that Samsung could improve on is including support for making in-app and website purchases with Samsung Pay just like what Apple and Google are doing with their payment platform. Also, I would love to see the option to use Samsung Pay to withdraw cash from an ATM. That would be so cool.

Having tried both Android Pay and Samsung Pay, I can definitely say I love Samsung Pay more because it is far more accessible. If you do have the opportunity to try out Samsung Pay, I would definitely recommend to give it a try. There's no harm giving it a try and who know's, you might end up loving it like me.

Insider Talk

I think, I am going for a two week article release cycle for the rest of the year. My schedule as of lately has been pretty busy. But anyways, I initially targeted this review to be released after my first week of using Samsung Pay but school life has gotten the best of me and thus this review was delayed.

Right now, I am targeting to get the Galaxy Note7 review up by the end of October. Waiting to see what Google has with their Pixel phones and how the LG V20 compares. So, far I am liking the Galaxy Note7 but I am a little bit disappointing about the constant overheating and slow performance.

Till the next time

--dw