Four no-bull facts to know about Apple Pay

Get the lowdown on Apple's digital wallet, from its implications for PayPal to its dependence on iPhone 6 battery life

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Rumors about Apple devising some form of digital wallet for the iPhone were swirling thick and fast months before Tim Cook stepped on stage today and confirmed those suspicions. The official word plays up Apple Pay's appeal, especially to those sick of credit card breaches and lost wallets, but devils abound for these particular details. Here are four of the most crucial takeaways about Apple Pay to keep in mind.

1. PayPal and Google are in trouble (but not entirely doomed)

With Apple Pay, Apple may pull off the one feat both PayPal and Google have labored to accomplish but never been quite reached: Create a technologically and aesthetically unified way for consumers to make payments both online and in the real world. PayPal is widely seen and used online. Most of Google Wallet's use, though, is confined to shopping in Google Play. Neither has made much of a dent in the real world. Leave it to a lifestyle company like Apple, rather than a tech company (or, for that matter, a bank) to do that.

It's not a total endgame for the competition, though. For one, Apple Pay is limited only to those using Apple hardware (and not everyone who uses Apple hardware, either; see below). It's unlikely that droves of Android users, who are happy to pay relatively little for a good-enough smartphone experience, will see this alone as an incentive to dump their hardware. That reopens a window of opportunity for Google -- and PayPal, Square, and whoever else is still trying to create a platform-agnostic digital wallet that actually gets used. It's a small window, but it's open nonetheless.

2. You'll need either the late-model iPhone or an earlier model paired with the iWatch

The uptake of Apple Pay will be limited, at least at first, not just by the size of the existing iPhone user base, but by the number of people with compatible iPhone hardware: either the iPhone 6 or an earlier iPhone paired with the Apple Watch. If you're holding onto an iPhone 4, you can use Apple Pay only if you upgrade in whole or in part.

3. Touch ID is more about convenience than security with Apple Pay

If you think the reason Apple Pay is secure is because it's protected by your fingerprint, think again. As much as we'd like to credit biometrics for adding security here, Touch ID does not keep Apple Pay transactions secure. More likely, it's due to the way no credit card information is stored in or transmitted through the system (Apple claims), rather than the protection afforded by the fingerprint itself.

What Touch ID really provides is convenience -- the convenience of not having to type a PIN or too supply another piece of personal information (such as a billing ZIP code) to complete a transaction. Consider it one of the many ways Apple has built its ecosystem for users first, an act that still seems to elude its competition.

4. The biggest real-world bottleneck is the battery, not merchant acceptance

Do you relish the idea of pulling out your phone to pay for dinner, only to find it's died in your pocket because you forgot to charge it earlier? Hope you actually have your real credit card with you as a backup -- but wasn't Apple Pay supposed to free you from carting around all that plastic in the first place?

Such hassles are far more likely to be obstacles for the user than lack of merchant participation -- which people aren't too worried about anyway, given the parade of major names Apple flashed in its slide deck. This is an area where Apple's claims about better battery life must hold true. If the phone can't last a full day on a single charge, it'll be even harder for people to justify using Apple Pay while they're out and about.

This article, "Four no-bull facts to know about Apple Pay," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.