Forget waiting for Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay or anything else Pay-branded in Australia. Cash by Optus is working on wearable support, and we've been testing it on the ground here at Mobile World Congress. Can Optus solve the wearable payments conundrum once and for all?
The watch we tested was something from a company called Connected Device, which has a history of working with telcos overseas for bundled wearable and mobile payment solutions.
It has a circular face and four buttons on the side, as well as a mechanical winder which turns the watch hands.
Inside it is a pre-paid debit card you can load up with a maximum of $5000. It works exactly the same as a Visa payWave card, allowing you to wave the face over a terminal to pay for something.
The same rules apply to the Optus My Cash Connected Device watch (that needs a better name): you can make payments without a PIN code up to the value of $100, and if you lose it transactions can be frozen and reversed.
Full disclosure: Optus gave us one to test for a day at Mobile World Congress which was pre-loaded with $100. We only used $4 buying water and Coca-Cola at two different payment locations.
As far as the payment component of the product is concerned, it's awesome. It doesn't need to be turned on, activated or tinkered with in order to get it ready to swipe. Just hold your wrist over the payment terminal, and it magically accepts the payment. So awesome.
The issues come when you want to use the Connected Device watch as an actual smartwatch. In short: it's rubbish.
Fair disclaimer though, Optus and Connected Device are working on this with a view to a Christmas 2015 release date, so it's still very much a beta product. We assume it will get better at being a smartwatch before then.
Also I'm sure if we had time to pair it to our own smartphones and live with it for a spell, we'd know how to use it better and get used to it.
The problem is bigger than the watch itself, however. By far the biggest problem I can think of for using a watch to pay for something is the same problem we had when we started to pay for stuff with our phones: changing the behaviour of the people accepting the payment.
For years they've accepted two kinds of payments: cash and card. Both have a certain process involved. Give change, ask for PIN, offer receipt. It's a dance as old as payments itself.
When phones were introduced, cashiers freaked out. I had to explain to more than a few cashiers that I wasn't attempting to defraud them or otherwise "hack" my grocery bill by paying with my phone, so imagine the sort of result showing them your wrist and paying with your watch will incur.
I tried doing it at the largest mobile show on the planet which is choc-full of weird shit like this, and I still copped a raised eyebrow and had to explain the product to them.
That's going to happen in Australia. A lot.
Connected Device says they're working with Optus as partners now to develop a band rather than a watch, and based on how finnicky the watch is to use, I have to say that's a great idea.
A waterproof band with a pre-loaded debit card on it you can carry in lieu of your wallet or phone is a great idea. That will be awesome. The watch, however? Steer clear.