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Apple Pay Is Faster, Easier, More Secure, and More Private Than Using Credit Cards

Angie Schiltz

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     or contactless payment logo)

You’ve probably heard of Apple Pay, but have you set it up so you can use it to pay for purchases at checkout? If not, give it a try, since it’s one of those living-in-the future Apple technologies that feels like science fiction every time you use it. Simply put your iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch within an inch or so of a compatible payment terminal (look for an Apple Pay or contactless payment logo), put your finger on the Home button to use Touch ID (or double-press the iPhone X’s side button and authenticate via Face ID, or double-press the Apple Watch’s side button), and you’re done. The entire transaction takes less time than opening your wallet, although you may still need to sign a receipt.

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What happens behind the scenes when you use Apple Pay? The good news is that Apple Pay is significantly more secure than a magnetic-strip credit card and has advantages over chip-embedded cards too. First, theft prevention is baked in. A typical thief can’t use Apple Pay from your device because they can’t get past Touch ID or Face ID, or provide your Apple Watch passcode.

 

Also, the store where you shop gets no data about you—they don’t know who you are, where you live, what your card number is, or anything else unless you showed a rewards card or provided your phone number. Most importantly, you don’t have to worry about your credit card number being jotted down, scanned, or skimmed.

 

How does this seemingly magical process work? When you set up Apple Pay, the Wallet app sends your encrypted credit card details to Apple, after which they’re passed along to your card’s payment network. What comes back is an encrypted Device Account Number—a long number that’s stored in the Secure Enclave chip on your device. That chip is protected by a digital moat, keeping it isolated from nearly all activity on your device. The Device Account Number is unique to your device and card, so nobody else can use it.

 

When you pay with Apple Pay, the Secure Enclave chip transmits the Device Account Number, along with a few other details, including a one-time transaction code. Everything is encrypted, so even if an attacker were listening to the traffic, no transaction details would be revealed. The information remains encrypted until it reaches the appropriate party, at which point, if all goes well, your transaction is approved and processed.

 

Millions of payment terminals in the United States accept Apple Pay, including those found in most major national chains, so you shouldn’t have to look far to find one. You can also use Apple Pay in some iOS apps and some Web-based shopping carts when checking out in Safari.

 

To set up Apple Pay, on your iPhone or iPad, tap Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay > Add Credit or Debit Card and follow the easy instructions—it’s fine to let the device scan your card so that you don’t have to type your credit card number; the image is discarded immediately after setup.

 

After adding a card, find it in the Wallet app and tap the card’s info button at the lower right to explore the Info and Transactions screens. Notice that four digits from the card’s Digital Account Number appear on the Info screen—if you want to return an Apple Pay purchase, you’ll give these digits to the merchant instead of sharing your credit card number.

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Finally, starting in iOS 11.2, Apple introduced Apple Pay Cash, which lets you make person-to-person payments within the Messages app. It’s great for splitting restaurant checks!

 

The bottom line is that Apple Pay is easy to use, preserves your privacy, and enhances your financial security. And you get to feel like you’re living in the future!

iCloud Photo Library Users: Do NOT Turn Off iCloud

Angie Schiltz

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File this warning under “unless it’s absolutely necessary.” If you use iCloud Photo Library on your Mac, don’t sign out from iCloud. Also, don’t deselect the iCloud Photo Library checkbox in either the Photos options of the iCloud pane of System Preferences or in the iCloud preferences in Photos itself. Why not? Because, when you re-enable iCloud or iCloud Photo Library, Photos will re-upload all your photos, which could take days. (It’s not really re-uploading all of them, but even just resyncing will take a long time.) Worse, if you don’t have enough space in iCloud for your entire Photos library again, you’ll have to upgrade to a larger plan temporarily, resync, and then downgrade to your previous plan. Apple will refund you the cost of the upgrade, but you’ll have to work with support to get reimbursed.

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Apple’s Family Sharing Simplifies Sharing Purchases and Managing Kid Capabilities

Angie Schiltz

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Family life is all about togetherness, but keeping track of who’s doing what when can be tough. Apple’s Family Sharing service makes it easy to share apps, media, and more within a family of up to six members, and it provides a few helpful digital housekeeping capabilities, such as locating your kid’s misplaced iPad. Here’s an overview of how Family Sharing can enhance your family’s everyday life, both online and in the real world.

 

Manage Your Kids’ Purchases

Every Family Sharing group has an organizer. That person (probably you) sets up the family on a Mac in System Preferences > iCloud and connects a credit card to the account to pay for all App Store, iTunes Store, and iBooks Store purchases of apps, music, TV shows, videos, and ebooks.

 

For any child under the age of 18 in the group, you can turn on Ask to Buy. This feature lets your kid shop for apps or media, but complete a purchase only if you approve it. Ask to Buy also applies to free downloads so you can maintain control over free games. You can give other adults in your family the ability to approve Ask to Buy requests.

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Share Apps, Media, and More

To help you keep costs down, once someone in the family has purchased an app or media file, anyone else in the family can download it. Keep in mind that some apps don’t allow such sharing and in-app purchases can’t be shared. Helpfully, you can hide some or all purchases from other family members.

 

You can also buy a family subscription to Apple Music, Apple’s streaming music service. At $14.99 per month for a family instead of $9.99 per person, it’s a good deal.

 

Family Sharing creates a few items that all group members can access on their Apple devices:

 

●      A shared Family album appears in the Photos app, making it easy to build a common set of photos. You can designate the Family album as a screensaver on your Mac or Apple TV.

●      A shared Family calendar in the Calendar app helps track those basketball games and piano recitals that everyone needs to know about.

●      A shared Family list in the Reminders app has many possible uses, such as a grocery list with location-based alerts or a chore list with timed alerts.

 

Find Your Children (and Their Devices)

Family Sharing simplifies the setup and usage of two key Apple services related to finding things.

 

All family members automatically become “friends” in Apple’s Find My Friends app. This bundled app shows where everyone is on a map (more specifically, it shows where their primary device is). We find this feature helpful for determining when someone is likely to be home for dinner or for a teenager to see that a parent is en route to a pickup. If you need privacy briefly, you can temporarily stop sharing your location.

 

You won’t need the Find My iPhone app—which shows the location of all your family’s Apple devices, including the tiny AirPods—on a daily basis. But when your tween isn’t sure whether he dropped his iPhone on the bus or in the museum, it’s a godsend. You can also use Find My iPhone to play a sound on a missing device (in case it’s in the couch), put a message on it, or even erase the device entirely.

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Family Sharing may not do everything you’d want, like share entire Photos libraries or contact lists, but it’s a boon for any household whose members use a variety of Apple devices.