Prepare now for Samsung Pay

By Dan Ray

When Samsung unveiled its latest smartphones in February 2016, many users expected to finally get a UK release date for the tech giant's mobile payment platform, Samsung Pay. But to no avail. The company does say the service will be available to Brits at some point in 2016, but no date has been set.

So what's taking Samsung so long? Company executives have said they're working on deals with banks, merchants, card issuers and payment processors, among others, to make sure the service offers customers the best possible experience at launch. All this takes time, since new agreements need to be struck as the service is extended into new territories. However, the fact that the company has announced big name partners such as Transport for London (TfL) indicates that Samsung Pay's UK iteration is shaping up.

Image provided by MasterCard
To use Samsung Pay, simply tap your phone on the NFC reader on the terminal, or near where you would swipe a magnetic stripe card.

In a March 2016 interview with the Irish Times, Samsung Ireland director Gary Twohig said Samsung Pay would be ready to go live in the UK at some point over the summer of 2016. Though the official launch date is still unknown, it's wise to prepare now for the new platform.

Here's what you need to know about what phones will offer it, where you'll be able to use it and how secure it will be when it finally does go live in the UK.   

Who can use it
To use Samsung Pay, you'll need to have the right device and the right card from the right bank. Samsung Pay only works on some Android-powered Samsung devices. As of spring 2016, they include these Galaxy phones: S7, S7 edge, S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+, S6 active and the Note 5, although the latter two have not been officially released in the UK.

Samsung has an existing partnership with Visa and announced last July that it is extending its partnership with MasterCard into Europe after launching Samsung Pay in Korea. Samsung also expects to work with other payment networks such as American Express.

The third piece needed for the service to work is the card-issuing bank. Samsung is working to get all major UK banks on board, so if your bank doesn't sign up right away, you may just need to wait a while.

How it works
First, you'll launch the app -- which can be downloaded from the Google Play store -- and a short instructional video will play. After agreeing to terms and conditions, you'll set up your fingerprint or PIN (which you'll use to verify each transaction), plus a backup password. Then you can add a card. You'll need the card number and expiry date, and may need a billing address and card verification number, too.

"Once you've added a card, simply swipe up from the home button to launch the Samsung Pay app, choose the desired payment card, and authenticate with the fingerprint sensor or PIN," Conor Pierce, vice president for mobile and IT for Samsung UK, said in an emailed response to questions. "You then tap the device to the point-of-sale terminal within 15 seconds of verification, allowing for a fast, secure, and easy purchase." You will need to hover your phone over the card reader.

After the initial setup, there's no need to unlock the phone or launch an app. As long as you have already put in your payment card details, you can simply turn the phone off standby, and the Samsung Pay option will appear at the bottom of the phone, allowing you to swipe to access it (the same way you can access your camera without unlocking the phone). If you want, of course, you can select the Samsung Pay app from your home screen or app tray as well.

Security specifications
Payment security comes from Samsung KNOX and ARM TrustZone. The two systems work together to prevent fraud and to monitor suspicious payments.

"Samsung Pay does not keep personal account numbers on a consumer's device," Pierce said. Instead, Samsung Pay uses tokenisation. This means when you make a payment, rather than the same account number being processed each time, each payment uses a unique 16-digit "token" and a cryptogram -- a one-off code generated by an encryption key stored on the handset. Both sets of data are sent to the payment processor, which checks they match before authorising the payment.

If you lose your phone, Samsung has you covered there, too. "In case of a lost phone, Samsung's Find My Mobile feature allows users to locate, lock and even wipe their devices remotely," Pierce said.

See related: Alternatives to Apple Pay on the horizon, Inconvenient, not impossible -- a week without cash, Calling all payment tech junkies: Emerging innovations gather steam

Updated: 6 April 2016