PayPal – Another Tap and Pay Contender

PayPal App Logo

Some bad news for iPhone users over the weekend: According to reports from TechCrunch and The Verge, Apple Pay might not be the saviour of mobile payments after all, at least in this part of the world. And for Canadians there was a Mobile Syrup fluff piece about the next generation of mobile payments in this country—conveniently failing to mention that the current generation of mobile payment systems largely suck, thanks to our banks and carriers.

Well, guess what? There’s another player in the “tap and pay” game, and it’s one you may have heard of: PayPal.

At one point PayPal was going to be a “preferred payment partner” for Apple Pay; that relationship apparently ended with the news that PayPal would support the fingerprint reader on the Samsung Galaxy S5. But PayPal seems to be doing just fine on their own—their app is available right now for Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7.

I tried (and failed) to use PayPal in Brisbane, Australia last summer. I had better luck more recently at a local coffee shop.

PayPal Locations

Here’s a map showing the locations where PayPal is accepted in downtown Toronto. For this demo I chose to get an Aussie-style “flat white” coffee at Kanga Pies.

PayPal Before

Yup, fairly embarrassing photo of me right there; I changed it as soon as I got home…

The reason why you need a photo at all is so that the cashier can recognize you when it’s your turn to pay. Just like Foursquare you “check in” at a location. The cashier can see a list of checked-in PayPal users, so you need only to verify your name when paying and PayPal will take care of the rest.

PayPal After

Here’s what you’ll see on your device immediately after a transaction. You’ll have to navigate to another screen to see a receipt. Not sure why that is…

PayPal Coffee

Anyway, here’s my flat white, next to a complimentary wireless charging spot. I like this place!

As for the PayPal app itself, it works a lot like Tab Payments. At this particular place of business PayPal didn’t seem to be connected to the cash register, so the only way for me to verify the amount due was to ask the cashier.

Payment is “frictionless” in that there’s no  QR code to be scanned like there would be with SmoothPay or the Starbucks app. But I did have to log in to PayPal when I launched the app. Combining that with the mandatory check-in made me wonder if using a PayPass-enabled MasterCard would have been quicker and easier. Then again, if you don’t have a PayPass-enabled MasterCard, this isn’t a bad alternative.

When all is said and done I’m 100% okay with any mobile payment solution that doesn’t let my bank or carrier get in the way.