Samsung Pay Takes On Apple and Google in the U.K.

Samsung Electronics Co. has made its Android and Apple Pay competitor available in the U.K. Tuesday, as it attempts to play catch-up in one of the major markets for contactless payments. 

Three banks— Banco Santander SA, MBNA Corp and Nationwide—will support Samsung Pay at launch, with American Express Co, First Direct and HSBC Bank Plc arriving within “weeks,” said Kyle Brown, head of technology, content and launch management at Samsung U.K.  “We're working with every banking partner in the U.K. so we're bringing on new banks very shortly.” 

Contactless payments are extremely popular in the U.K. A quarter of all card transactions are made using the technology according to a January report from the U.K. Cards Association, an industry body. Over 100 million contactless cards are in circulation within the population of 65 million people.

Samsung Pay is late to the game in the U.K. Apple Inc.'s offering, which opened in the U.K. in 2015, and Android Pay, by Alphabet Inc.'s Google, launched in 2016. Both of Samsung's rivals let users authorize purchases using their fingerprint. Samsung says that users of its Galaxy S8 will also be able to use a scan of their iris in the U.K. too, using the phone’s front-facing camera.

Samsung Pay is supported by the Galaxy S8, S7 and S6, all of which will be compatible with standard contactless payment terminals in the U.K. Other Samsung devices, including its Gear series of smartwatches, are due to support Samsung Pay in the near future, Brown said.

Samsung Pay launched in its home market of South Korea and the U.S. in 2015, and has since rolled out to China, India, Brazil, Spain, Russia, Thailand, and Malaysia, as well as  Sweden and the United Arab Emirates in April this year.

Technology companies are moving their customers away from passwords to reduce reliance on single modes of identification such as a PIN.

A notable exception is London’s public transit system. Apple Pay requires users to scan their fingerprint to pay for a bus ride, for example. For these journeys, Samsung Pay users will not have to do this. The company has worked with Transport for London, the capital’s public transit regulator, to allow Samsung devices to complete a payment without authentication, as a way of speeding up movement through gates or turnstiles.

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