As the eagerly anticipated Apple Watch is praised and derided in equal measure, there’s one thing for certain, its competitors are worried.

While the Apple Watch is by no means the first wrist wearable on the market, it already has similar manufacturers scrambling to keep up with certain aspects offered by the new device. While the more frivolous functions (such as being able to send your heart beat to someone else’s Apple Watch) aren’t likely to be emulated, there are others that developers are clamouring for.

Contactless Payment for Wearables

Contactless payment is a method of paying in shops, bars and restaurants without having to use a bank card or manually enter a PIN. Just hold your device over the pay point, and your payment will automatically be taken in one or two seconds. Apple Pay rolled out in the US late last year and recorded great adoption numbers, while contactless payment on the whole is on the rise in the UK. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by wearables manufacturers, who are slowly but surely adding contactless features to their products.


Jawbone, the wrist-wearable fitness tracker, has recently added contactless payment to their new product, the UP4. Partnering with American Express, they will allow quick and easy transactions on the go. The question is, do all wearable manufacturers need to cram their devices full of features? The Jawbone is a fitness and health wearable first and foremost, so does it really need to offer contactless payment? The Jawbone UP4 is the first wearable that isn’t a smartwatch to offer this, which may suggest that there’s a reason other companies have not opted to include it. That said, the Jawbone is designed to be worn at all times (as it measures heart rate and other health statistics) with (an expected) superior battery life to the Apple Watch. Jawbone will not be a direct competitor to Apple Watch by any means, but it may offer a more practical and convenient alternative when it comes to contactless payment.

We previously took a look at just how Apple Pay will work with the Apple Watch.

Biometric Security

Samsung, never one to be outdone by Apple, have just patented a biometrical ID system which will be used in contactless payment processes. Alongside this, they have also revealed plans to launch Samsung Pay (wherever did they get that one from?) which allows contactless payment on their phones in the same way that Apple does with the iPhones. The significance of this biometric patent however, is that it will allow payments straight from the wearable, as opposed to having to have authentication from your phone first.


Apple Pay via the Apple Watch requires you to “log in” to your iPhone first using your fingerprint, which then unlocks your Apple Watch to be able to make payments. If Samsung include biometric authentication in their wrist wearables, this could forego the need for the wearable to be paired with a Samsung phone in order to work. Apple Pay and Samsung Pay are very similar, however they have small differences which could affect users. There’s a good comparison on KnowYourMobile to give you an idea.

Magic Band

Using wearables for payment is an idea that is quickly catching on, and to put into perspective just how successful big businesses are anticipating it will be, Disney have just invested $1 billion into their own “Magic Band” wearable. This wrist band allows Disney theme park visitors to automatically communicate with iBeacons located around the park, which in turn aims to make their stay more enjoyable.

Disney’s Magic Band is designed to streamline user experience. So information like names, date of birth and food orders can be stored and then passed on to employees of Disney. Let’s say you have a reservation at one of the restaurants. iBeacon technology will notify the kitchen when you have arrived so that they can start preparing your food. Waiters address you by your name (as your reservation details are stored in the Magic Band) and are able to make food suggestions based on what you ordered last time. If you leave your bag behind, no matter - an employee will be able to see whereabouts you are in the park and bring it straight back to you! What’s more, you’ll be able to pay for food and souvenirs with a tap of the wrist.


Too Specialised?

It’s clear that contactless payment will see widespread adoption in the not-too-distant future, however with lots of different companies fighting for position, there’s a danger that someone will have their toes stepped on. Will we really need a Magic Band to pay contactless in Disney theme parks if we also have an Apple Watch? If you have a Samsung wearable that monitors health statistics, allows contactless payment and communicates with mobile devices, then what is the use for a Jawbone?

It makes sense for a wearable to encompass a lot of features, but specialising in just one or two could segregate themselves from the market. Focusing on contactless payment is wise, but only if you are thinking about what other things consumers need from a wearable.