Daily Dose of iQ: Select Retailers Hope to Block Apple Pay with ‘CurrentC’

Oct 27, 2014 — Allan Pulga

Apple Pay went live last week (Oct. 20), but the new NFC tap-to-pay technology isn't without its opponents, apparently. A lot of them.

On Saturday (Oct. 25), The Verge reported on an alternative mobile payment method, called "CurrentC."

A number of merchants, including Walmart, Kmart, 7-Eleven and Best Buy, are in outright competition with Apple Pay.

"A significant number of merchants, including heavyweights like Walmart, Kmart, 7-Eleven, and Best Buy, are in outright competition with Apple Pay," wrote The Verge's Dante D'Orazio.

"The retailers, through a joint venture formed in 2012, are building their own mobile payment app, called CurrentC. It's expected to launch next year. In the meantime, these retailers have no intention to support Apple Pay."

Who are these retailers? Have a look, below (photo provided by TechCrunch, Oct. 26):

"Rather than NFC, CurrentC uses QR codes displayed on a cashier’s screen and scanned by the consumer’s phone or vice versa to initiate and verify the transaction," wrote TechCrunch's Josh Constine (Oct. 26).

"The system is also designed to automatically apply discounts, use loyalty programs, and charge purchases to a variety of payment methods without passing sensitive financial data to the merchant."

According to TechCrunch, CurrentC was created not just to circumvent Apple Pay*, but to sidestep credit card companies as a whole.

*Apple Pay, as we know it, integrates with iTunes, upon which consumers assign a preferred credit card for purchasing media online, or in-store (using Apple Pay).

CurrentC, which uses QR codes rather than NFC, was created to let partner retailers sidestep credit card companies as a whole.

CurrentC is built by a company called MCX, spearheaded by Walmart, which sought a means of processing payments "through Automatic Clearing House transactions through bank accounts that have much smaller fees" (than the typical 2-3% fees charged by Visa and MasterCard).

Looking at the CurrentC demo diagram above, I am a bit baffled as to how it is any better for the consumer than something like Apple Pay. The whole consumer appeal of Apple Pay is that it connects with iTunes and Touch ID -- two things with which iPhone users are familiar and comfortable -- and introduces the speed and convenience of NFC tap-to-pay. Frankly, at first glance, CurrentC does nothing of the sort -- it looks complicated and annoying.

Compared to Apple Pay's NFC technology, CurrentC frankly looks complicated and annoying.

It appears I'm not alone: "The problem with the CurrentC system, as John Gruber points out, is that it’s based more around solving the retailers’ credit card fee problems than the consumers’ payment friction problems," TechCrunch's Constine wrote.

"Users have to open their phone, open CurrentC, open the scanner, scan the code from the cashier, and wait for the transaction to be confirmed. That may present more friction than simply paying with a credit card, and it’s certainly harder than a quick Touch ID verification and tap of Apple Pay."

Topics: Privacy, Retail Operations, Wireless Trends, Mobile Industry

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