TIME FindTheBest

16 Retailers Apple Must Land for Apple Pay to Succeed

The mobile payment battleground is currently in chaos, with customer loyalty programs, retailer apps and Apple Pay each marshaling troops, attacking supply lines and forming shaky—sometimes short-sighted—alliances.

Just weeks after launch, consumers seem to like the Apple Pay experience best, with its one-tap simplicity and strong privacy features. Unfortunately, three hurdles stand in Apple Pay’s way.

Technology

Apple Pay requires NFC (near-field communication) to work, and some retailers don’t have the technology built in. This is the least of Apple’s worries, however, as stricter credit fraud laws will compel most big stores to add NFC by October 2015.

Customer Loyalty Programs

Apple Pay keeps payments anonymous—so anonymous that retailers will lose some valuable information about shoppers: what they’re buying, what they’re returning, what they might be interested in next. It’s why customers who are paranoid about privacy love Apple Pay, but data-driven retail marketers can’t stand it. Even Apple-friendly brands like Starbucks have been hesitant to fully implement Apple Pay for this very reason. The Starbucks iOS app lets the coffee shop understand individual customers and offer them relevant promotions. A full-fledged Apple Pay solution would cut out the flow of customer data.

CurrentC

The biggest Apple Pay antagonist, CurrentC is a mobile payment system supported by dozens of America’s biggest retailers (including three of biggest: Walmart, ExxonMobil and CVS). CurrentC is nirvana for retailers. The app connects directly to shoppers’ bank accounts, cutting out those 2-3% per transaction fees from the likes of VISA and Mastercard. It can also offer promotions and customer loyalty rewards, a crucial part of most big retailers’ customer retention strategies.

Unfortunately, CurrentC is also clunky to use. For a given purchase, customers must take out their phones, unlock them, open the CurrentC app, open their cameras, then point their phones at one of those blocky QR codes, which validates the transaction. You can debate whether swiping a credit card or using Apple Pay is faster, but as it stands, CurrentC is easily the slowest, most awkward method.

If CurrentC maker MCX can overhaul the app’s user experience, the payment system has a great chance to be successful. After all, it’s already got a lot of big players backing it. But if it remains in its current state, it’s hard to imagine consumers getting on board.

So what would it take for consumers’ most popular method—Apple Pay—to truly become the payment system of the future? At FindTheBest, we took a close look at America’s top 100 retailers by sales volume to see who’s out, who’s in, and who Apple has a shot of winning over.

Today, we’re focusing on the big brands: the majors and generals, not the captains and lieutenants. With apologies to smaller companies like Petco and Panera Bread, here were the brands we picked from (sales estimates from FindTheBest’s Companies topic):

We’ll start by reviewing Apple’s key partners and biggest opponents, then count down the fence-sitters. Again, this isn’t a comprehensive list—just the biggest brands.

The Apple Core

  • Chevron
  • Walgreens
  • McDonald’s
  • Macy’s
  • Staples
  • Disney
  • Whole Foods
  • Toys R Us

Apple has at least some representation among four critical industries: gas, drug stores, fast food and clothing. The weak point here is grocery stores. Whole Foods is a decent start, but Kroger, Safeway and Publix are all either ambivalent or anti-Apple Pay, which could spell big trouble for the service.

The Lost Causes

  • Walmart
  • CVS
  • Best Buy
  • Rite Aid

The biggest CurrentC advocates of all, these companies have actively disabled Apple Pay. Having bet heavily on MCX’s mobile payment solution, they’ll likely make big sales sacrifices before caving to the iPhone and Touch ID.

From here, however, we move into the “remotely possible” categories. We’ll start with least likely.

The Longshots

  1. ExxonMobil
  2. Lowe’s
  3. Sears
  4. Publix
  5. Kohl’s
  6. The Gap Inc.

All six of these players are CurrentC supporters, but they’ve been less vocal in their distaste for Apple Pay. Unfortunately, several are likely tied up in CurrentC exclusivity contracts, which would mean that they can’t legally implement Apple Pay as long as they want to support the CurrentC app. Still, if Apple Pay were to really take off, you might expect a few of these to betray the CurrentC faithful and start accepting payments through Apple.

The Potentials

  1. Costco
  2. Kroger
  3. Home Depot
  4. Safeway
  5. JC Penney
  6. Nordstrom

None of these businesses have been particularly receptive toward Apple Pay, but they’re not aligned with CurrentC either, which means that either faction could win them over. Both Home Depot and Nordstrom seem like natural fits. The former would love to build back customer trust after its recent, infamous credit card breach—and security is one of Apple Pay’s best features. Meanwhile, the latter matches Apple’s customer base well: an upper-middle class, “affordable luxury” brand.

The Fickle Friends

  1. Starbucks
  2. Target

Both retailers have half-heartedly embraced Apple Pay, with mobile apps that will integrate with the new Touch ID-authenticated feature. But neither features the simple, one-tap-to-pay experience, which will likely be critical for Apple Pay adoption. Starbucks would still need to add the NFC technology across its 20,000 stores, and a true Apple Pay solution might cannibalize its popular (and successful) iOS app. Apple may need to prove it can win over friends before it starts flipping enemies.

The Nice-to-Haves

  1. Pizza Hut
  2. Taco Bell

They’re not as big as the above retailers, but they could each help sell Apple Pay through brand association. Taken together, these companies could win Apple more users in a crucial young demographic, the sort of customers that could create a long-term foundation for the new mobile payment service.

– – –

Apple has the technology and user experience nailed. Now it’s time to win over these 16 brands. If the company chips away at the CurrentC stronghold, even one retailer at a time, it’ll be in a much better position to win not only the current battle, but the larger mobile payment war.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

More from FindTheBest

TIME Television

Watch Anita Sarkeesian School Stephen Colbert on GamerGate

She even declares Colbert a feminist

The maker of a feminist video game who has faced vitriol from some members of the “GamerGate” online movement stopped by The Colbert Report on Wednesday and handily schooled the host’s fake gamer persona.

“I’m saving the princess, and I’m supposed to let the princess die? Is that what you want?” Colbert asks Anita Sarkeesian incredulously.

“Well maybe the princess shouldn’t be a damsel and she could save herself,” Sarkeesian replies, drawing cheers from women in the crowd. (“I didn’t know you brought a posse,” Colbert jokingly responds.)

The GamerGate movement, named after the Twitter hashtag that has fueled its growth, purports to challenge poor ethics in video-game journalism. But it has also unleashed a wave of sexist comments and threats against women in the overall gaming industry.

Sarkeesian, who has publicly criticized video-game culture for its portrayal of women, canceled a talk at Utah State University earlier this month after the school received an email threat of a shooting massacre. While the school considered it safe for the talk to continue, Sarkeesian decided to pull out of the event because the school was barred by state law from disallowing legal guns on campus during the event.

“They’re lashing out because we’re challenging the status quo of gaming as a male-dominated space,” Sarkeesian says. By the end of the interview, she even declares Colbert a feminist after he asks if he’s allowed — as a man — to be one.

See the full interview below:

TIME Education

5 Apps That Can Do Your Homework Much Faster Than You

7 Apps That Will Do Your Homework For You
peepo—Getty Images

There's no doubt these academic aids can complete your homework, but whether or not that's cheating is up for debate

In the field of educational technology, some apps might be getting too smart.

More and more apps are delivering on-demand homework help to students, who can easily re-purpose the learning tools to obtain not just assistance, but also answers. Whether or not that’s cheating—and how to stop it—is one of the concerns surrounding a new app that can solve math equations with the snap of a camera. While the software has inspired teachers to create real-world homework problems that can’t be automatically solved, that strategy doesn’t hold up to other apps that tap into real-life brains for solutions.

Here’s a look at five apps that can do your homework for you, and what they have to say about cheating:

PhotoMath

Price: Free
Availability: iOS, Android app coming in early 2015

The new, seemingly magic app allows users to take pictures of typed equations, and then outputs a step-by-step solution. As of Wednesday, the app is the number one free app on the App Store. But the biggest issue, one teacher argues, isn’t if students will use the app to cheat, because many will. Rather, it’s about how teachers will adapt. A PhotoMath spokeswoman said educators have welcomed the app with positive reviews, but the software remains “quite controversial.”

“We didn’t develop PhotoMath as a cheating tool. We really wanted kids to learn,” said Tijana Zganec, a sales and marketing associate at tech company MicroBlink, which created PhotoMath. “If you want to cheat, you will find a way to cheat. But if you want to learn, you can use PhotoMath for that.”

HwPic

Price: Free, but some homework services require payment
Availability: iOS and Android

HwPic is a tutoring service that allows students to take send pictures of their homework to tutors, who will then respond within minutes to your questions with a step-by-step solution. There’s even an option to expedite the answers if a student is in a hurry. HwPic Co-Founder Tiklat Issa said that the app was initially rejected by Apple’s App Store, which believed it would promote cheating, but he successfully argued that just because someone uses the app in a way that it’s not meant to be used doesn’t mean the app should be punished.

Issa added that HwPic prohibits cheating in its terms and conditions. Tutors don’t solve homework that has words like “Quiz” or “Exam,” and they often know if a student is sending a photo during a test if they’ve paid for expedited answers, and if the photo is dim, blurry and taken under a desk. “We’ve minimized cheating,” said Issa. “We haven’t eliminated it. That’s kind of unrealistic.”

Wolfram Alpha

Price: $2.99
Availability: iOS and Android

Wolfram Alpha is similar to PhotoMath, only that it targets older students studying high levels of math and doesn’t support photos. The service also outputs step-by-step solutions to topics as advanced as vector calculus and differential equations, making it a popular tool for college students.

“It’s cheating not doing computer-based math, because we’re cheating students out of real conceptual understanding and an ability to drive much further forward in the math they can do, to cover much more conceptual ground. And in turn, that’s cheating our economies,” said Conrad Wolfram, Wolfram Research’s Director of Strategic Development, in a TEDx Talk. “People talk about the knowledge economy. I think we’re moving forward to what we’re calling the computational knowledge economy.”

Homework Helper

Price: Free
Availability: iOS and Android

Chinese Internet search company Baidu launched an app called Homework Helper this year with which students can crowdsource help or answers to homework. Users post a picture or type their homework questions onto online forums, and those who answer the questions can win e-coins that can be used to buy electronics like iPhones and laptops.

The app has logged 5 million downloads, much to the dismay of many some parents who argue that the students spend less time thinking about challenging problems. A Homework Helper staffer admitted to Quartz, “I think this is a kind of cheating.”

Slader

Price: Free, but some homework services require payment
Availability:
iOS

Slader is a crowdsourcing app for high school and college students to post and answer questions in math and science. While students can post original homework for help, many questions in popular textbooks have already been answered on the app, according to Fast Company. An Illinois high school said earlier this year that it suspected students were using the service to cheat on their math homework.

Slader argues that it’s “challenging traditional ideas about math and education,” and said that the ideas behind its app “aren’t a write-off to teachers,” according to its blog. Slader told San Francisco media outlet KQED that it shouldn’t be dismissed as a cheating tool, but rather considered a way for students to access real-time help.

TIME relationships

Men Swipe Right on Tinder 3 Times as Much as Women

App Tinder
Franziska Kraufmann—picture-alliance/dpa/AP Tinder App

More "likes" than "nopes"

Men apparently see much more that they like on Tinder than women do.

On the popular dating app, which has users swipe right to indicate they “like” a potential match and swipe left to say “nope,” men are almost three times as likely to swipe right than women are, the New York Times reports. Men do it 46% of the time, while women do it just 14% of the time.

MORE: The new dating game

The Times, citing an unnamed source, reports that Tinder now has close to 50 million active users. Co-founder and CEO Sean Rad touted its more realistic appeal to physical attraction over the algorithms that other dating sites say yield compatible matches, algorithms viewed skeptically by social scientists.

“When was the last time you walked into a bar and someone said, ‘Excuse me, can you fill out this form and we’ll match you up with people here?’” Rad said. “That’s not how we think about meeting new people in real life.”

[NYT]

TIME Companies

Apple CEO Tim Cook Is ‘Proud to Be Gay’

The tech executive's first public acknowledgement

The CEO of Apple announced he’s gay Thursday, in an essay that puts him among the highest-profile publicly out business leaders in the world.

“I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me,” Tim Cook, who took the reins of the world’s most valuable company from the late co-founder Steve Jobs, writes in Bloomberg Businessweek.

The highly private Cook has never publicly acknowledged his sexuality, though it was widely rumored outside the company, and he writes that colleagues at Apple already knew.

“I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others,” Cook wrote. “So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.”

Read next: The Best Way to “Come Out” to Coworkers and Bosses

TIME Silicon Valley

IBM and Twitter Sign Pact to Turn Tweets Into Better Business Decisions

“Businesses have only scratched the surface of what is possible”

Computing goliath IBM has signed a deal with Twitter to use tweets to make smarter business decisions.

The agreement will let IBM’s 10,000 consultants access the some 500 million tweets the social-media firm sees each day, the Wall Street Journal reports. Together, the companies will build new services to assist various industries in gauging public opinion on brands, products and ideas, as well as forecast prospects for business development.

“Businesses have only scratched the surface of what is possible,” Twitter CEO Dick Costolo told an event announcing the accord in Las Vegas.

IBM has been keen to collect on innovations in the world of big data, this summer announcing a deal with Apple to develop new applications for corporate clients. Meanwhile, Twitter has also been intent on beefing up its revenue sources, buying data firm Gnip this spring to give its advertisers better analytics packages.

[WSJ]

TIME Internet

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TIME Retail

Wal-Mart’s Apple Pay Competitor Has a Secret Weapon

Grand Opening At A New Wal-Mart Store
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Wal-Mart Stores Inc. signage is displayed on a check out register during the grand opening of a new location in Torrance, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012.

It's perfectly tuned for low-budget shoppers with phones that aren't always cutting edge

Wal-Mart is among the biggest retailers not accepting Apple Pay, Apple’s new mobile payment system that got underway last week to rousing early success. The big box behemoth is instead going with a different, decidedly lower-tech solution called CurrentC, a mobile wallet developed by a group of merchants, Wal-Mart included, called MCX.

Despite not launching publicly yet, CurrentC is being lambasted in the tech press this week. Why? Over the weekend, several retailers involved with MCX stopped accepting Apple Pay after initially allowing it, which read to many as unfriendly to consumers. And on Wednesday, MCX revealed its email vendor was hacked, exposing CurrentC users’ email addresses and giving the company yet another PR headache.

CurrentC is also seen by many as having been designed more to benefit merchants than consumers. It’s certainly less user-friendly and probably less secure than Apple Pay, but it will help merchants sidestep the much-hated fees they have to pay every time a customer swipes a credit card. CurrentC is also just less cool than Apple Pay—from a tech obsessive’s perspective, it looks like a budget sedan to Apple Pay’s Tesla Model S.

But here’s the thing: None of the tech journalists I know shop at Wal-Mart. For Wal-Mart’s lower-income shoppers, CurrentC could actually have some advantages over Apple Pay. To wit:

1. CurrentC is QR-code based, like Starbucks’ payment app. That makes it backwards compatible with older, cheaper phones (and Android phones) whereas Apple Pay only works with Apple’s top-of-the-line, brand-new phones. Eventually, those iPhones will get older and trickle down into lower-budget shoppers’ pockets, but that’ll take years. The trade-off here is that Apple’s NFC-based system is inherently more secure, as it doesn’t give retailers vital data about your payment method.

2. CurrentC supports consumer loyalty programs (read: coupons), whereas Apply Pay does not. Many shoppers deride loyalty programs as annoying, but I can speak from my experience as a broke college student when I say that coupons can be a vital lifeline for lower-income shoppers. Of course, that support comes at a privacy price: Loyalty programs are really just a thinly-veiled way for retailers to collect data about their consumers.

You’ll notice both of those points contain significant tradeoffs in terms of privacy, a point that Apple CEO Tim Cook emphasized when he introduced the company’s service. Still, there are plenty of reasons for low-end shoppers to adopt CurrentC over Apple Pay, if they embrace the mobile wallet at all. Many won’t—but let the best mobile wallet win.

TIME Security

Apple Pay Competitor Defends Service After Hack Exposes Emails

220,000 Stores Start Accepting Apple Pay
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images A worker demonstrates Apple Pay inside a mobile kiosk sponsored by Visa and Wells Fargo to demonstrate the new Apple Pay mobile payment system on October 20, 2014 in San Francisco City.

"This is not a breach"

Apple Pay competitor CurrentC defended the security of its mobile payment system in a Wednesday conference call, just hours after its parent company MCX reported that hackers had obtained some users’ e-mail addresses.

MCX CEO Dekkers Davidson said the attack, which targeted the company’s email vendor, was “not a breach” of the CurrentC app itself. He also emphasized that the incident affected mostly dummy e-mails used in the yet-unreleased service’s ongoing testing phase. Davidson also revealed that some dummy zip codes were stolen and that CurrentC’s systems had withstood several repeated attacks during the past week.

Davidson added the hack hasn’t made the company hesitant to store customer information in the cloud, a plan that’s been criticized given that CurrentC’s main competitor, Apple Pay, doesn’t collect any traceable information at all.

“In terms of consumers’ information and any payment credentials, they’re not stored on a device. They’re not actually present in the physical world,” Davidson said. “And that we think is a design or implementation that makes it far more secure than the world we live in today, and far more secure than many of the alternatives that have been advanced over the last few years.”

While MCX is a joint venture by retailers in order to create a retailer-owned payment system, Davidson said that the service is “first and foremost” about customer engagement. Part of that customer engagement will include a consumer privacy dashboard so that users can elect what information, if any, they would like to share with merchants.

MCX has been under scrutiny after reports suggested that MCX members CVS and Rite Aid disabled Apple Pay because of a contractual agreement for exclusivity. However, Davidson said that the company welcomes competition, and that it is the merchants’ choice whether or not to accept other forms of mobile payment. He added that MCX member retailers are not subject to fines if they choose to adopt Apple Pay, which registered 1 million credit cards in its first three days.

Davidson added that although some MCX merchants have blocked Apple Pay, MCX is open to member retailers using both Apple Pay and CurrentC simultaneously once the latter service goes public early next year.

“We have a great deal of respect for Apple, of course, and Apple Pay,” Davidson said. “We believe and our merchants believe we require two to three strong players in the space to build the ecosystem.”

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