Apple's early adopters could finally push mobile payments forward

          Laura Heller

Apple's new Apple Pay stands to change, if not everything, a lot about the future of mobile payments. Not just because Apple changes things, but because it targets the right group at the right time: early adopters.
In case there is anyone left who hasn't heard, Apple Pay was announced on Sept. 9. It's a mobile payment platform that lets users easily make purchases with their iPhone, either with Touch ID or NFC tap to pay technology.

Of course, it only works with Apple's iPhone, which puts it squarely in the palms of coveted early adopters.

In the consumer electronics and technology space, early adopters are the target of any product launch. The consumers who will pay a premium to be first, to own and use a coveted new technology.

Apple Pay, when combined with the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, is an early adopter's dream: a slick piece of hardware combined with a showy new way to conduct business.

IPhone users are typically more affluent than other smartphone owners. It's why luxury retailers such as Neiman Marcus and Barney's New York have developed apps exclusively for iOS devices. It's the operating system of choice for wealthy shoppers and it stands to reason that Apple Pay could well become the payment system of choice for some.

Even in the discount department store channel, Target is adopting Apple Pay while Walmart has opted out. Target's aspirational shopper is a better fit for Apple's demographic than Walmart's, who is more likely to own an Android smartphone and less likely to use credit at all.

Why does this matter? Because mobile wallets have been slow to catch on. If it ain't broke, don't fix it is the reasoning, and payments overall haven't been. With the exception of security and privacy, and Apple Pay offers some strong advances in that area, current forms of payment have been accessible and easy for consumers.

Habits are hard to break, but if iPhone users start tapping or touching to pay, it could be the mobile wallet's beachhead. A leading edge wave of recruits adopting the technology because it's new and cool, because it's a status symbol.

But it will only stick if it works, and works better than what is readily available. It will be interesting to see if Apple Pay is the thing that finally moves mobile payment adoption. -Laura