Market Insight

Apple Pay launch will kick start UK mobile payments market

June 09, 2015

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Apple Pay is coming to UK in July for iPhone 6, 6 Plus and Apple Watch users in over 250,000 locations. It will work with more than 70% of credit and debit cards in the country by autumn. The UK launch is the first international roll out of Apple’s payment service since its US debut in late 2014.

  • Supporting card providers: American Express, MasterCard, Visa Europe
  • Participating banks: First Direct, HSBC, NatWest, Nationwide Building Society, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander and Ulster Bank;                       Banks coming later in 2015: Bank of Scotland, Coutts, Halifax, Lloyds Bank, MBNA, M&S Bank and TSB Bank
  • Participating merchants/locations: Boots, BP, Costa Coffee, Dune, JD Sports, KFC, Liberty, LIDL, Marks & Spencer, McDonald’s, Nando’s, New Look, Post Office, Pret A Manger, Spar, Starbucks, Subway stores, Wagamama, Waitrose, and Transport for London.
  • Apps accepting Apple Pay: Addison Lee, Airbnb, Argos,, British Airways, Domino’s, easyJet, Hailo, HotelTonight, hungryhouse, JD Sports, Just Eat,, Miss Selfridge, Ocado, Stubhub,, Top 10, Topshop, Uncover, Vueling, YPlan, Zalando and Zara,

Apple Pay has expanded quickly since its September 2014 US launch; starting with 200,000 locations, it expanded its presence to over 700,000 locations by March 2015, and will grow to 1 million locations in July.

Our Analysis

Timing is key for Apple Pay’s first international expansion

The UK has been a competitive test field for NFC payments. Major operators including EE, Vodafone, O2 and Orange have either teamed up or launched their own mobile payments products. Many have failed due to limited merchant acceptance for NFC payments, in addition to the complexity of setting up accounts which led to poor user experience; power struggles between operators and the lack of solid business case have also limited the mobile payments market. The growth of contactless card payments in 2014 means the UK is now a much more receptive market for mobile payments.

It is a smart move for Apple to choose UK as the first launch country outside the US:

  • Market share: Apple has over 30% market share in the UK smartphone market, giving the payment service a large enough user base.
  • An advanced payment system: Payments systems such as chip-and-pin have been a standard payment method for many years. Banks and retailers have also invested in NFC infrastructure.
  • High level of contactless payments: Contactless payments have been surging in the UK in 2014. The UK Cards Association reports that total spend on contactless cards trebled in 2014, reaching £2.3billion across 319 million transactions.
  • User education: UK consumers are familiar with contactless cards payments and mobile-based NFC payments for daily activities such as public transportation. Both EE and Vodafone partnered with Transport for London (TFL) to launch contactless payments in 2014, allowing users to pay for transport by tapping their phones. TFL has helped to popularise this unique use case; 41 million journeys have been made within five months of launch using contactless payment, with an average of 415,000 daily. TFL’s support for Apple Pay will be a boost for the adoption of the service.  


Apple Inc.
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