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Three years in, Samsung Pay has a long way to go

Apple Pay handles in one quarter what Samsung has managed since launch.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
August 21, 2018
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Pau Barrena/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Samsung Pay debuted roughly three years ago to much fanfare, but how's it been doing since? Pretty well -- relatively speaking. The Korean tech giant has announced that its tap-to-pay service has racked up 1.3 billion transactions worldwide and is now available on six continents thanks to a launch in South Africa at the end of July. That makes it available in 24 markets -- rather convenient when the Galaxy Note 9 is days away from hitting stores. The growth is no mean feat, although it's important to put it in context.

While 1.3 billion is large, it's notable that Apple Pay processed over 1 billion transactions in the second calendar quarter of the year. Although much of that growth only came recently (it's triple what Apple managed a year earlier), it suggests that Apple's head start on NFC payments is bearing fruit. Apple only has a slight advantage in availability with 29 markets, and some of those are small areas like the Isle of Man and San Marino.

As usual with Samsung Pay, this doesn't show the whole picture. Samsung's ability to imitate the magnetic stripe on conventional banking cards remains its ace in the hole. Even if NFC is a no-go at a favorite store, you can frequently use your phone or watch regardless. It's just a lot harder to quantify these transactions since they count as ordinary purchases, not tap-to-pay. Samsung's technology may have wider adoption than you see here, even if its actual service is comparatively small.

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