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Testing Apple Pay in the UK (pictures)

We take an iPhone 6 and an Apple Watch on a tour of central London to see what Apple's payment platform is like to use.

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Luke Westaway
Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.
Luke Westaway
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1 of 7 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Apple Pay has arrived in the UK, following its US debut in October last year. We took the new system -- which lets you pay for items by tapping your iPhone or Apple Watch against a shop's contactless card reader -- for a shopping spree around the capital.

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2 of 7 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Our first experiment in Costa Coffee was a failure. Although Costa is on board with Apple Pay, we were told that the system was a few hours away from being ready to use. We also learned later that you'll have more luck holding an Apple Watch face up near the card reader instead of face-down.

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3 of 7 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

We had better luck in Starbucks, where an iPhone payment went through very quickly. Only the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will work with Apple Pay, and to verify the payment, you need to let the phone scan your fingerprint.

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4 of 7 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Good news for commuters in the UK's capital -- Apple Pay works on the London Underground.

While we found Apple Pay to be very much functional, tapping to pay often took us a few attempts, as we experimented with different angles in a bid to get payment points to recognise our devices. Don't be surprised if there's some tutting from the queue behind you as you struggle to trigger a transaction.

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5 of 7 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

M&S accepts Apple Pay, making our purchase of a delicious own-brand chocolate milkshake simplicity itself. Staff in shops we visited all seemed quite bemused by our efforts, however, so expect a little confusion until the sight of people paying with phones and smartwatches becomes more common.

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6 of 7 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Paying at McDonalds took a few attempts, but worked in the end. As well as paying for things in brick-and-mortar shops, Apple Pay will also work with third-party apps -- meaning you won't have to enter card details every time you use your phone to order a pizza from Dominos, for instance.

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7 of 7 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Ultimately, we found that Apple Pay is very much functional on day one, but can be a tad awkward to use. If, like many Brits, the thought of a failed in-store payment fills you with cold dread, you might want to wait until the service becomes a more established part of high-street life.

Another obstacle preventing would-be Apple Paysters from getting involved is that several banks aren't supporting Apple's platform at launch.

For now, MBNA, Nationwide, NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander and Ulster Bank are all aboard, with American Express, Mastercard and Visa credit and debit cards from those banks all supported. HSBC and FirstDirect will be getting on board later this month, while Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland will be supported in the autumn. Barclays says it will bring its debit and Barclaycard credit cards to Apple Pay "in future", whereas the Co-op Bank is only looking into the matter.

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