By Ethan Wolff-Mann
August 17, 2015
Injong Rhee, of Samsung Electronics, speaks about Samsung Pay during the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2015 event August 13, 2015 in New York.
Don Emmert—AFP/Getty Images

Last week Samsung announced its new Note 5 and Galaxy Edge 6+, the Korean electronics giant’s new big-screen smartphones. In addition the standard buzz of hardware specs came the first demonstration of Samsung Pay, the contactless payment system to challenge Apple Pay that will come standard on these devices.

Apple Pay may have reached market first with the iPhone 6, but Samsung’s version appears to have one distinct advantage. In addition to near-field communication (NFC) connectivity, Samsung’s new devices employ a technology called “Magnetic Secure Transmission,” which allows its mobile payment system to be used on standard credit card machines. Apple Pay only uses NFC connectivity, which is far from ubiquitous in the checkout lane.

The public has known about this advantage since Samsung made its first announcement in March, but an event on Thursday marked the first demonstration of its user-friendliness. All you have to do is swipe up on the screen, select a card, and input your PIN or fingerprint to authenticate. Then wave the phone over the credit-card reader and be on your way.

While reports of “payment wars” are heating up over the news, including one from Time’s Victor Luckerson, don’t expect too much of a battle. Even if Samsung users embrace Samsung Pay wholeheartedly, Apple is unlikely to suffer, since something as marginal as a mobile payment method is unlikely to draw users away from their iPhones. And since Apple updates its phones every year, if Samsung’s technology causes a seismic ripple in the way we pay for things, expect any significant advantage to be countered with the next release.

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