After more than two years, Apple Pay still feels like the future

Sure, we don't have jetpacks, but we can buy things with a Jedi Mind Trick wave of the wrist, and that's pretty cool too.

apple watch apple pay
Credit: Apple

There’s a lot of negativity out there, on the Web and in the world. People are angry, dissatisfied, tired of political clashes and online arguments and the realization that the Internet connects us directly the best and worst humanity has to offer.

I’m not saying the anger and frustration isn’t justified. If you’re feeling it, you probably have a good reason. But sometimes, even in dark times, it’s worth taking a deep breath, stepping back, and considering the bigger picture about 2017.

It’s this: It’s twenty seventeen. The. Future. And even though we don’t have flying cars or jetpacks or a colony on Mars, Apple’s done its best to make the future pretty darn amazing.

Future proof

Any adult who takes a step back and admires what technology has brought us in the last few years has to admit that we are living in a science-fiction wonderland, when viewed from the perspective of even 20 years ago.

The obvious one is the smartphone. Hard as it is to believe, but it’s still been less than 10 years since the first iPhone shipped. In the intervening decade nearly a third of the world’s population and nearly three-quarters of Americans carry an Internet-connected supercomputer in their pockets. It’s hard not to imagine that the era we’re living in right now will be considered a sea change for the human race, as computing power and connectivity became available to most of us around the world.

The smartphone changes everything. It ruins trivia contests and spontaneous games of “who was the guy who was in that thing”? It lets people work from anywhere, anytime–for good and for ill. It’s hard to imagine life without it, and ten years it basically didn’t exist. (Yes, pedants–I owned a Palm Treo in 2007–it wasn’t the same!)

Apple Pay, shopping’s Jedi Mind Trick

Or try this one for size: The other weekend I drove my electric car to a shopping center and bought a bunch of groceries with my watch.

That really happened. I bought a used Nissan Leaf, which upon further reflection is sort of like an iPad on wheels–touchscreen, battery, charging cable–and now drive a car that feels more like a spaceship (or to be fair, a golf cart) than a traditional automobile.

And when I reached my destination–BevMo and Trader Joe’s, to be specific–I bought all the purchases at both stores by tapping twice on my Apple Watch and using Apple Pay. This has lost none of its novelty for me over the last year–it’s still incredibly cool to pay without pulling either my wallet or phone out of my pocket.

The future also extends to the United Kingdom, which I visited a couple of weeks ago. Not only is Apple Pay active in the UK (it wasn’t during my last visit), but “contactless” credit cards with embedded RFID chips have become wildly popular. None of my American credit cards are contactless, but almost every contactless terminal I tried worked just fine with Apple Pay. As a result, I never took out a single pound from an ATM when I was in the UK, and didn’t use cash at all–the entire week I spent in England and Scotland was funded via credit card, largely via Apple Pay.

(Pro tip for international travelers from the U.S.: Though our cards now have chips, which allows them to be inserted into the chip readers common elsewhere in the world, most card issuers still demand that we sign a printed receipt when we pay, rather than inputting a PIN code. This will sometimes lead to a heavy sigh from a cashier as they realize they need to go find a pen so you can sign. I bypassed the issue entirely by using Apple Pay.)

I did have one bit of disappointment on the trip–namely, that the fare gates at the London Underground wouldn’t work with my U.S. credit cards. (I had to get a contactless Oyster card instead.) The Underground has built support for contactless credit cards and Apple Pay into its system–you tag your card or device at both ends and it automatically deducts the fare–but it requires some specific support that my American banks don’t offer. Alas.

One more thing

Upon returning home in my electric car from my Apple Pay-fueled shopping trip, I realize I’m able to issue voice commands to turn appliances on and off in my house due to the Amazon Echo sitting in my kitchen. (Or, alternately, I could issue many of the same commands to my phone or watch using Siri.) Most shockingly, I can say, “Alexa, play the song that goes, ‘The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had,’” and “Mad World” immediately starts playing.

Yes, this means I can no longer play “what was the name of that song again?” with friends. But that’s what life is like here in the future.

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