Skip to content

How do Bluetooth-based payment apps compare to NFC and Apple Pay? Not well.

You can choose from two technologies when paying for your groceries: NFC or Bluetooth. Competition is always good, but there is no reason to put Bluetooth on a pedestal.

Last week, as an interesting twist in the competition between payment methods and systems, S Group announced that it will adopt the Bluetooth-based Mobile Pay as a mobile payment technology in its stores.

Helsingin Sanomat and Yle took different tones in their reporting on the S Group’s new policy. Helsingin Sanomat wrote that the Bluetooth technology used by Mobile Pay is more functional than NFC, whereas Yle’s story also addressed the user experience: the manufacturers’ NFC-based features are more user-friendly, because they open automatically when you need to make a payment. In Bluetooth-based payment applications, the payment process needs to be specifically initiated by the user every time by opening the payment application.

All NFC-based payment transactions launch automatically on Android phones, but Apple has not allowed outsiders to access the NFC chips of its phones. This means that payment transactions only open automatically on iOS phones if you use Apple Pay.

As Qvik’s Head of Design, Matias Pietilä, commented in Yle’s story, mobile payment just cannot be made as convenient with Bluetooth.

The use of Bluetooth instead of NFC technology also requires stores to invest in specialized POS equipment. Even though the S Group is installing the feature, national availability is still far off, while NFC already works nearly everywhere.

The best service doesn’t always win

The entry of Bluetooth-based Mobile Pay to the S Group’s payment terminals may well turn out to be a success – after all, the Chinese pay with WeChat by scanning QR codes. The method is clumsy but works the same everywhere you go, which explains its popularity in China.

“The most convenient way doesn’t always win, but it’s silly to claim that something is the most convenient choice when it’s not”, says Pietilä on the differences between Bluetooth and NFC. With Mobile Pay, you need to dig out your phone in the same way as with apps using NFC – and then you still have to launch the payment transaction from the application. This makes contactless payment more awkward.

Like Pietilä stated to Ilta-Sanomat, if NFC will become the mobile payment method used by the rest of the world while Finland uses Bluetooth, our payment solutions may not work abroad anymore.