Apple Pay now available in Singapore, but only with Amex cards

Already available in Australia and China, Apple's digital wallet service has just made its way to Singapore but only for American Express cardholders, with Visa joining the fray "soon".

Apple's digital wallet service has made its way to Singapore, but only for consumers with American Express credit cards and its adoption is anticipated to be slow.

Apple Pay launched here on Tuesday with a dozen retailers supporting the mobile payment mode, including apparel stores Topshop and Uniqlo, telco StarHub, and supermart NTUC Fairprice. Several others were expected to also support the service soon, such as 7-Eleven, Giant, Toastbox, and Guardian.

For now, only American Express credit cards can be added as a payment option, though, Visa credit cards will be included "soon". Other banks also are expected to support the mobile wallet at a later stage, including DBS, UOB, and Standard Chartered.

Apple Pay launched earlier this year in China, and also is available in Australia, Canada, the US, and the UK. The digital wallet is touted as a more secured option since the user's credit details are not stored on the device or Apple's servers. Instead, a unique Device Account Number is generated, encrypted, and stored in a dedicated chip on the Apple device. Purchases are processed using the Device Account Number as well as a one-time dynamic security code, and each payment requires Apple's Touch ID or passcode.

Apple Pay's success in Singapore, however, would be slower than expected, according to Forrester's researcher for e-business and channel strategy, Ng Zhi Ying. She noted that the use of contactless card payments was growing and gaining familiarity among consumers in the city-state.

It would take some time before digital wallets, which still faced significant barriers, proved more convenient for and provide additional value to consumers.

Ng said: "Some banks in Singapore have rushed to become the first few banks to partner with Apple for Apple Pay, but we believe financial institutions should not simply cede the digital wallet relationship to Apple Pay [and should] think carefully about the sources of value that a partnership will bring, and the terms that the partner offers."

While the mobile payments market was expected to be further fragmented, the Forrester analyst said this might not necessarily be a bad thing since it offered more choices for consumers and service providers would be driven to improve their products.

Forrester's senior analyst for B2C marketing Clement Teo, though, believed Apple's more controlled platform could prove to have a competitive edge. He noted that it was "a strong alternative" to the Android ecosystem, which he said had yet to garner a strong adoption rate in Singapore.

"Apple Pay increases the number of use cases for payments, offers a less fragmented OS ecosystem, and enlarges the pool of players in the payments ecosystem," Teo said. "While it may not be the [leading] standard, it will be a major one for mobile payments, especially with the growing adoption of wearables like the Apple Watch."

He added that the adoption rate for Apple Pay would depend on its ease of use and effectiveness.

According to Visa's country manager for Singapore and Brunei, Ooi Huey Tyng, one in three Visa transactions in Singapore were processed using the payment company's contactless service, payWave.

"Contactless payments and 'going cashless' are becoming a part of everyday life, as more consumers and retailers realise contactless brings greater convenience and faster checkouts for busy people on the go," Ooi said. "We're confident the introduction of Apple Pay will be welcomed by all Singaporeans and we look forward to working with our clients to support this technology."