Six months after the launch of Apple Pay, the digital wallet continues to gain momentum despite ongoing problems with acceptance at many retail stores.
Apple provided few specifics on Apple Pay during its second fiscal quarter earnings conference call, but CEO Tim Cook called out the service as one of the highlights of the quarter. “We’re seeing great momentum with Apple Pay,” Cook said during brief comments.
Today, Discover, the last bank card holdout not to offer Apple Pay, said today it will begin enabling Apple Pay beginning this fall. Currently, Apple Pay accepts Visa, MasterCard and American Express. In March, Apple said some 2,500 banks now support it.
In addition, Best Buy announced it’s offering Apple Pay for app purchases and will starting offering it in all its stores later this year. Best Buy’s own struggles aside, it’s another major retailer, often selling higher-ticket items, so it’s especially significant for Apple Pay’s broader retail acceptance.
Also, the health care payment network InstaMed recently said it will accept Apple Pay. More than 50 major hospitals it works with, including Stanford Health Care and Aspen Valley, will take it this year for co-pays and bill payments.
Cook also repeated a previous update that said the company has tripled the number of locations that take Apple Pay, to nearly 700,000 in the U.S. Still, the inability of most stores in the U.S. to accept Apple Pay because their checkout terminals aren’t set up to do so remains a challenge.
The latest evidence: A Bloomberg story reports that some two-thirds of users report problems using Apple Pay in stores. According to the story:
“While 66 percent of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners surveyed had signed up for Apple Pay, repeat usage is being hurt, the study by Phoenix Marketing International said. Almost half of users visited a store listed as an Apple Pay merchant only to find they couldn’t use the service because the location wasn’t actually accepting the system or wasn’t ready to do so, according to the survey, which drew about 3,000 respondents.”
“They’ve created demand, but it can’t be fulfilled,” Greg Weed, Phoenix’s director of card research, said in an interview. “To make it more difficult to use or to create any uncertainty in your customer base as to whether it’s going to work is just going to slow it down.”
Don’t blame Apple. Fact is, it’s not under Apple’s control. The 700,000 stores that can now accept Apple Pay are still a small fraction of the total number of retail stores, more than 6 million in the U.S.
Besides technological challenges, there are competitive issues. Some large store chains such as Walmart are pushing their own mobile wallets. And rivals such as Google, which recently announced an Android payments service in addition to its existing Google Wallet are fighting to gain a toehold too.