Apple Pay vs Samsung Pay vs Android Pay: comparison

Smartphone mobile payments have finally arrived in a big way in 2015: after Apple introduced Apple Pay in late 2014, the service started to get traction in 2015. Towards the end of the year, two other big names arrived to the space: Google finally overhauled Wallet and re-booted the system as Android Pay, and then, Samsung launched its Samsung Pay service. 

Which is the best and most convenient phone payment system to use in the United States these days?

First, let's make it clear that both Apple Pay and Android Pay use NFC to pass on transactions, and both services require an NFC-enabled terminal. Many popular chains like McDonalds, Subway, Walgreens, Duane Reade and the Whole Foods Market support these terminals, but others like Best Buy do not have them everywhere yet, and smaller local stores will probably take years to upgrade their terminals.

In those places, Samsung Pay's support for the legacy MST standard comes particularly handy: you just place your phone close to the place where cards are swiped, and it sends a magnetic signal that makes it possible to pay using your phone in places where Apple and Android Pay users can't do it. While there are still lots of places that don't accept NFC payments, more than 90% of the stores in the United States have magnetic card terminals that accept Samsung Pay.

Then, there is payment within apps. As we do more and more of our shopping online, it's a huge time-saver to have one-tap payments within apps like AirBnB and Target. Apple was the first to add payments within an app, and it supports the most apps including some very popular ones (Best Buy, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Etsy, Kickstarter, Uber, Target, Ticket Master just to name a few). Android Pay has only recently started supporting payments in an app, so the list of supported apps lacks some key ones, and Samsung Pay does not yet support payments within apps at all.

Apple PaySamsung PayAndroid Pay
Launch dateSeptember, 2014September, 2015September, 2015
Supported phonesiPhone 6, 6 Plus
and later
select high-end
Galaxy phones
all Android 4.4+ phones
with NFC
Supported countriesUS, UKUS, KoreaUS
Upcoming countriesChina - Q1 2016
EU countries - Q1 2016
UK - August 2016
Spain, China - Q1 2016
Australia, Brasil, Singapore
No data
TypeNFC onlyNFC
Magnetic (MST)
NFC only
to launch
Starts automatically
when near NFC terminal
Swipe up
from bottom of screen
Starts automatically
when near NFC terminal
Does it work with
traditional terminals?
Does it work with
NFC terminals?
Does it work with
Does it work
for purchases in apps?

Ease of use

Which of the three is easiest to use? First, we ought to say that Apple Pay and Android Pay automatically activate as you bring your phone close to a terminal, and with just a single tap on the fingerprint scanner to authorize a payment, you can be all done. Samsung Pay is also fairly easy to use: you swipe from the bottom of the display to bring the app to life, and then authorize payments with the fingerprint scanner, but it's that extra step that makes it a bit slower. 

What could be a bit more troublesome is that on older terminals that only accept traditional cards (Samsung Pay works there as well), the cashiers are often not briefed that you can pay using Samsung Pay. This could result in a few weird conversations, but unless you bump into an angry clerk, this should not be an issue.


It's important to know that paying with your phone is in fact secure with all three services.

If you are paying at an NFC-enabled terminal, it's important to know that the actual card number does not get transferred and have a peace of mind that malicious hackers won't be able to steal it. The transaction uses tokenization, which means that instead of real numbers, what's transmitted over the air are encrypted tokens. The other important security aspect is the Secure Element (SE). This is a separate and special chip inside the phone. It's special not just because it is dedicated to mobile payments: even its physical design is such that it is protected from hardware attacks. Each time a user starts a transaction, the SE assists in generating a random, one-time use code rather actual card numbers.

Then, there are MST transactions with Samsung Pay. You should know that security for those transactions is different than with NFC. In order for MST transactions to work, a magnetic coil inside your Galaxy phone runs alternating currents through an inductive loop and generates a dynamic magnetic field that a terminal can read. This exact magnetic field contains your payment information. How is this secure? First, this current appears for a very short period of time and secondly, it only spreads within 3-inch distance. These two factors make it hard to intercept this information, but for all else, this is just as secure as using a credit / debit card.

Banks and carriers support

All three services work with all major US banks and carriers. 

First, on the carrier side: Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay work with AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile. How are the carriers included in the picture? As far as public information is available, the carrier does not provide any physical chip to guarantee the security of mobile payments (there are no fancy chips on the SIM card, the Secure Element is actually built in the phone itself). 

At the same time, though, your bank has information about your phone number which is linked to your phone. This means that if someone somehow gets a hold of your credit / debit card and starts using it to pay from a different number, your bank will know something is wrong. This adds an additional layer of security, as we've seen reporters say that their cards have been put on hold as they were testing the payment systems with various phones. The bank detected this unusual activity on the card and put payments on hold. A simple call would lift the hold on the card, but it's important to know that those safeguards to exist.

Then, looking at the list of supported banks, you will see that Apple Pay has the longest list, but Samsung Pay and Android Pay also support most bigger banks. Since those lists of banks are pretty long, we won't be reposting them here: you can take a look at all the banks supported by Apple Pay here, by Samsung Pay here, and finally by Android Pay - here.

The apps and supported devices

So what about the apps, the actual interface for making payments? 

Apple Pay comes built in all iPhones: you just need to add your credit / debit card details in the Wallet app, and you are all set up to use Apple Pay. The interface will appear automatically once you approach an NFC payment terminal, and you authorize it with Touch ID and a simple tap on the home button. Apple Pay works on iPhone 6, 6s, as well as iPhone 6 Plus, and iPhone 6s Plus. Apple Pay is the only payment system that works with wearables and the Apple Watch in particular (if you have the Watch, you don't need to have the latest iPhone 6 / 6s, and you can use payments on your watch even when it's paired to the iPhone 5 and 5s).

Samsung Pay is a free app that you download from the Google Play Store. In order to start the app, you swipe from the bottom of the screen, and you will see all the cards that you have. You select the one you want to use and authorize the payment with the fingerprint scanner, simple as that. It's important to know that Samsung Pay only works on top tier Samsung phones: the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Active, Note 5 and S6 Edge+, but the company has promised to bring it to its more affordable phones in 2016 as well.

Android Pay, on the other hand, has it best when it comes to compatibility: it supports all phones running Android 4.4 KitKat (or later) and featuring an NFC chip. The app itself is a free download from the Google Play Store, and the interface seems a bit cleaner and it works in a similar manner to the other two.

Final words: Mobile payments in 2016

The past two years have set the stage for mobile payments: the apps are now here, all the carrier and most of the banks support them, but the one missing piece is retailers. In 2016, we expect this final piece of the puzzle to get solved: most US retailers are expected to introduce new NFC-enabled terminals and we'll see cashiers getting used to people paying with their phones.

Mobile payments will finally enter markets outside the United States: most Western European countries are in the roadmap of mobile payment vendors for 2016.

The same goes for the devices: while - apart from Android Pay - only top-end devices now support phone payments, more affordable devices will get support for payments. This will further widen the reach of mobile payments to more people.

And while we will probably still carry our wallets and our cards at the end of 2016, we might be actually using them much less.



1. shaineql

Posts: 522; Member since: Apr 28, 2014

Samsung is dominating this aera.

2. Unordinary unregistered

Until you click on the provided links for compatible banks and cards, lmfao. Also wonder why PA left out an important statistic. 28% of all capable Apple Pay phones use Apple Pay. 22% of all capable Android Pay phones use Android Pay. A measly 14% of all Samsung Pay phones use Samsung Pay.. Pair that 14% with no efforts to strong arm banks and cards to accepting Samsung Pay like Apple and Google are doing, and their already tiny card/bank base, and you have a weak platform with little room for growth in the near future.

6. Hexa-core

Posts: 2131; Member since: Aug 11, 2015

Ha! The Unordinary iFanboy spewing hate. Samsung is set to add more banks in 2016 Samsung Pay works at even a local shop. Samsung Pay works at 100% of the places you'll go, since it rocks MST, a payment method which works virtually everywhere! Apple Pay works at only 1/10th of the places where Samsung Pay will work! LMFAO

10. Jimrod

Posts: 1605; Member since: Sep 22, 2014

Where did he spew any hate? He was just stating fact wasn't he? Like I keep saying, all the hate comes from one side in these debates... Always starts with an "iFanboy", "iSheep" reference - the mark of a true troll.

43. willard12 unregistered

"Weak platform with little room for growth" is pretty much spewing hate and not stating any fact. When Apple didn't even have NFC, it was no big deal to Apple fans and they didn't care because Apple told the not to. Now, they are arguing over details like who has the most banks and what percentage of people are using it. A year and a half ago, many people didn't care if anyone was using it. The landscape of NFC didn't evolve in a period of 700 days. "It’s not clear that NFC is the solution to any current problem, Passbook does the kinds of things customers need today.” - Phil Schiller, September 2012 “We believe Apple Pay is going to be huge,” he explained. “It’s going to change the way we pay for things and I’m excited to announce today that we are beginning on Monday. The journey begins and we can’t wait.” - Tim Cook, September 2014

102. HildyJ

Posts: 338; Member since: Aug 11, 2012

If I have Apple or Android pay, I have to carry a credit card too. Until that changes, neither is of much use. As the US moves to chip and PIN credit cards, even the security features will become moot. Samsung's solution is the only one which makes sense if you want to go with phone payments (which I don't)

138. L8rgator

Posts: 1; Member since: Sep 12, 2016

It's now 9 months later than the original post, and Samsung Pay works with all my cards except maybe PenFed (it said "call bank" to confirm, so I didn't bother. I only use it for the cash back at Gas stations, and you can't use Samsung Pay at the pump anyways). And you can get $5 back when you give a referral to your friends (they get $5 also - my code is 94EB2A), and they give you free gift certificates randomly (just got $5 to Duncan Donuts), so they put out a LOT of incentive for people to start using it. Well, except maybe for S7 Note users - that blowing up thing is kind of a downside. It works everywhere I've tried, although I've heard rumors that some lowes and home depots are having trouble with it. Just the fact that I don't have to "ask" if they take "android pay/apple pay/etc" is worth it, cause I just wouldn't bother.

12. natypes

Posts: 1110; Member since: Feb 02, 2015

It's only 3 months old. You know as well as everyone this is the best foundation for ANY of the payment systems and if it gets the banks on board it will be dominate. I can tell by your selfie in your avatar that this is a hard pill to swallow, but you just have to put your big boy pants on and do it.

13. Unordinary unregistered

Hey, we all know it's amazing! It will just be a waste until Samsung takes charge. When Apple released Apple Pay, they got all the banks and card on board. And are doing a hell of a job for retailers as well. That's the step in the right direction. If Samsung is actually serious about this, like Apple is, then they better get to work, or their awesome tech will be wasted.

15. Hexa-core

Posts: 2131; Member since: Aug 11, 2015

Samsung Pay with MST, not only works at a place which is in partnership with the company, like how Apple pay works at Visa, AMEX, etc. Samsung Pay also works at a local shop or bar/hotel or wherever! That's it's advantage!!! Go, go Galaxy Pay! #NextIsNow

17. natypes

Posts: 1110; Member since: Feb 02, 2015

So did Android pay/Google wallet. I really don't understand the inner workings enough to comment on getting the banks on-board. Would not surprise me at ALL if Apple was pressuring them NOT to get on board with Samsung Pay.

25. Hexa-core

Posts: 2131; Member since: Aug 11, 2015

Righ! Apple might have cut a deal with them to not hop on Sammy Pay. But I'm only guessing...

32. willard12 unregistered

So, who is the largest retailer on this planet and can I use Apple Pay or Samsung Pay at that retailer? thank in advance.

36. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Top 100 Rank Company Headquarters / U.S. Headquarters 1 Wal-Mart Stores Bentonville, Ark. 2 The Kroger Co. Cincinnati, Ohio 3 Costco Issaquah, Wash. 4 The Home Depot Atlanta Apple Pay I believe works at all of them. But I can only speak for 3 of them. What you arent getting is this. Apple Pay only works with 10% of retailers on the whole planet, not just the USA. While Samsung Pay works with 90% of them out the box. It doesn't matter which retailers. The only ones that matter are the ones you frequent. Based on the ones I frequent: Best Buy, Jewel, Target, Costco, McDonald's, Walgreen's to name a few to name a few, they all work with Samsung Pay, but all of them don't work with Apple Pay.

67. schultzter

Posts: 16; Member since: Oct 20, 2015

What you aren't getting is MST is a made for USA solution. The rest of the world uses EMV and NFC. I see less and less mag-stripe terminals here (they might still be on the cash register or customer service desk will have one though). Banks here all issue EMV cards and no longer accept mag-stripe transactions so I don't ever expect to see Samsung devices with MST here.

71. willard12 unregistered

I don't think Apple Pay works at Wal-Mart. If so, that would be interesting.

137. YoungTravels

Posts: 1; Member since: Mar 13, 2016

Apple pay does not work at Walmart or Kroger... BestBuy, Target, McDonald's, and Walgreens in fact DO work with Apple pay, Android pay, and Samsung pay....

95. ph00ny

Posts: 2048; Member since: May 26, 2011

Except the technology used by Apple and Google requires additional NFC reader at the terminals to work. Which in itself is very limiting

103. Hexa-core

Posts: 2131; Member since: Aug 11, 2015

And also costs big cash to upgrade to NFC readers, since each and every branch or service point will need to be upgraded.

35. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

What banks? Do you know what banks? More banks is no benefit if you dont have retailers on board. With Samsung Pay retailers dont have to get onabord because Samsung Pay already works....WAKE THE F....UP!!!!!!!!!!!! I am goign to have a heart attacked because I just can't believe how clueless you people are. Are you guys really that dense?

31. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Which dont matter. You can have 100 banks on board it wont matter if the phoen still only works at 10% of retailers. YOU ARE A FOOL. STop repeating that stupid BS. Having the usage of 90% retailers is better because you dont need ALL the banks. you just need the important ones. As in AMEX, CITI, US BANK, CHASE, PNC and more. Those banks have more customers than combining 20 neighborhood bankcards. You are an idiot. Now I am goign to shut yoru stupid @$$ down once an for all on this: According to this link, as of the end of 2014 - American Express had 54.9million card holders that spent ovet $680Billion dollars in credit. This makes them the 3rd largest Credit Card issuers. YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A BANCARD AND A CREDIT CARD. How many neighborhood small banks would it take to equal 55M users vs AMEX? Next? AMEX works with both Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, but AMEX only works with Apple Pay at 10% of retailers while AMEX on Samsung Pay works with 90% of retailers. Do you see and understand why your point is stupid? The only advantage Apple has is banks onboard. It wont matter if Apple has 1000 banks, they still will be stuck with 10% usage capability. Adding a bunch of debit cards? The bank doesn't make any money off you using debit cards. Its just an electronic check. Unless you go over your balance with it or use an outside banks ATM. There is no interest on debit cards. Banks also dont have to pay Samsung any money for using Samsung Pay, while Apple gets a piece of the action. But retailers dont have to spend money to accept Samsung Pay vs Apple Pay. Do you understand that?! Every AMEX user with a Samsung device could poentially use their AMEX everywhere they shop without guessing while you cant use the same card on Apple Pay equally as often. In fact not even close. The gap is a full 90%. More banks is not the advantage. Let me explain it this way. Some people have multiple debit cards, how many you think will add all of them to Apple Pay even if every terminal worked with NFC? It wont matter. How do I know? Because I can add all of my bank issued MC and Visa cards and my Discover to Google Pay, yet it has no benefit because NFC isnt available in 90% of business that accept credit cards. Its not neeing all the banks, its having the big banks. Once Samsung Pay support any card with Visa or MasterCard logo, Apple Pay and Android Pay may still be around, but combined they will account for less than 10% of all mobile transactions. Apple Pay has only one advantage over Samsung Pay, you can use Apple Pay inside apps for purchases just like Google Wallet. Samsung doesn't offer this yet or may nto ever. But Apple needs that to make up for the fact, they arent goign to get used at most stores. The biggest banks in the USA support Samsung Pay. Chase and BofA and US Bank and Citi.

33. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Think about how many of those card holders may have a Samsung phone where they can use their card at nearly all of the same places they normally take their card out. The problem with mobile payments is many people arent keen on using their phone in public. They are afraid of getting them snatched. Which is a reasonable fear here in Chicago or new York for examples. You have to encourage usage. Like maybe cash back or discounts or something. Not just giving away free accessories. You need a program of continuous rewards. Like Samsung should give 2% of every purchase made with Samsung Pay. When NFC is more widespread then Apple having more banks onboard will be an advantage. The problem is, in the US this may or may not happen. In case it doesn't..Samsung Pay will work until Magstrip dies and it never will. Because Chip readers still have the swipe as backup in case the chip gets damaged or doesnt work. I have gone to many retailers that have chip readers, but ti isnt up and running. McDonald's is one of them.

65. TBomb

Posts: 1549; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

Or paying with a phone isn't as big of a deal for people as it seems? Just because it's not adopted, doesn't make it worse. In the world of vertical lift, coaxial rotors are in many cases better, but not seen very often.

127. HomerS

Posts: 419; Member since: Sep 19, 2014

@Unordinary Did you click on the correct link? Samsung Pay is compatible with 42 banks, not speaking of Korea. Android Pay works with 34 banks Sure Apple pay is in the lead here but has 1 year time advantage, definitely no laughing matter.

130. Solun

Posts: 6; Member since: Nov 18, 2013

You look at it from an entrepreneur point of view. Yes, it is better when 28% of iphone users use Pay compared to 14% of galaxy users BUT people here look at it the right direction, from the user´s point of view. And if you are a user of their device, you cannot pay practically anywhere compred to samsung´s Pay. So if I only can pay with my phone, I will definitely choose samsung because I can pay anywhere. And of course more people use apples´ pay if everyone in the US has the iphone but I bet the average number of transactions per user is much, much larger with galaxy users because they can pay anywhere they want.

5. Odeira

Posts: 300; Member since: Jun 29, 2012

Yeah. It was a great call for Samsung to use the MST standard (If you swipe your MasterCard on a device near the register then enter your PIN before you pay for something, you're using the MST standard) instead of completely proprietary NFC systems as the other standards. Shame it's only for the absolute best Samsungs right now and that IAP's are off the table...

7. Jimrod

Posts: 1605; Member since: Sep 22, 2014

I think it depends where you're from, NFC is all over the UK and I can't remember the last time I saw anyone use the magnetic strip method (aside from my old American boss), in the US however it sounds like NFC is rarer and magnetic strip is still the standard. You buy what suits your needs at the end of the day!

21. tedkord

Posts: 17387; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

NFC is quite rare in the US. What's more, the new RFID chip standard they are going to does not require a PIN, meaning it takes three times as long with no more security. Kind of silly.

26. tedkord

Posts: 17387; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

I should add, I'm really surprised at how slow the turnaround is, since US credit card issuers have transferred all fraud responsibility to the merchant where there is no RFID reader. There just doesn't seem to be any urgency.

38. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Now you are starting to get it. We are the reverse of England as a whole. Remember the US broke away from jolly ole England for a reason. You have chess, we have checkers. You have biscuits, we have cookies. You have a lift, we have an elevator. You have NFC, we have MagStripe. I don't think NFC will ever get really big because it requires retailers to spend money. Maybe as they open newer stores maybe they will.

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