Android Pay, Successes and Quirks

5 10 2015
APay

Android Pay

Since it’s launch several weeks ago I have successfully used Android Pay for transactions at two different merchants. The user experience changes depending on which merchant you use Android Pay at. Hopefully consistency will come to Android Pay as it matures.

OfficeDepotPayment 1 – Office Depot – Tap, PIN, Finished.

My first successful transaction at Office Depot went without a hitch. I held my phone to the payment terminal close to the tap and pay icon, it beeped within a second and I saw a green check mark indicating success. I was prompted to enter a PIN on the payment terminal, (similar to the process for a Debit Card). I entered my old Google Wallet PIN and the transaction completed quickly.

That was Easy.

StaplesPayment 2 – Staples – Tap, Sign, Ooops, Finished (eventually).

The second transaction at Staples took a little longer. I saw Apple Pay and Tap and Pay advertising taped onto the payment terminal but it wasn’t obvious where to hold the phone. Maybe the tap and pay icon was obscured by the advertising. I held the phone above the advertising and it beeped and I got a green check instantly.

Then the clerk informed me of the total price charged and I paused. The amount she quoted was three times the price of the item, I questioned the amount. Unlike a Credit Card swipe the payment terminal didn’t ask me if the total amount was OK. I asked the clerk how to cancel the transaction. “You can’t” was the response, “go ahead and sign and I’ll process a partial return”. There’s a difference, I was not asked for a PIN, but asked to sign instead. This seems much less secure.

That wasn't so easy

That wasn’t so easy

After the transaction completed the clerk took 2-3 minutes of several tries to process the partial return, eventually she asked to see my credit card again. I asked do I scan my phone again, I don’t have that credit card on me!?! “No” she said and pressed a button to complete the return. The clerk handed me both the original receipt with the overcharge and a separate receipt showing the credit amount.

That wasn’t so easy.

ChaseI’ll have to wait for the credit to show up

The charge shows up on my Chase credit card as a pending transaction, but the credit has yet to show. This is fairly typical, credits take longer. I’ll add an update to this post once enough time has gone by for the credit to appear.

Summary

To be fair the transaction at Staples took much longer because of the item ringing up at the wrong price. However the difference in the process is both odd and concerning. At Office Depot I entered a PIN to complete the transaction, at Staples I signed, just like a traditional card swipe. How does the check out clerk verify the signature is good if there is no physical card present? Seems very odd and less secure than a traditional credit card.

The lack of confirmation regarding the amount charged is also a concern. It seems to charge without confirming the price charged thereby requiring a credit to correct any errors at the checkout. Not having the physical card also caused extra delay for the clerk to process the credit.

PINEntryI preferred the process at Office Depot, the requesting of a PIN adds an extra layer of security which is superior to traditional credit cards that use a swipe. This new process is also more secure than Chip and Sign cards being introduced. I hope when all the glitches are worked out of Android Pay we end up with a PIN requirement. Tap and PIN is much more secure than Chip and Sign or Tap and Sign.

Credit Update October 6th 2015.

Android Pay Credits Work!!

Android Pay Credits Work!!

The Credit from Staples did get posted 24 hrs later through Android pay. It looks like Credits work just fine. I’ll keep my eye on my Chase account to see when the credit transaction shows up there. The original charge of $24.02 is still showing as a pending transaction.

Credit Update and Rewards Eligibility

I was glad to see the credit transaction posted to my credit card account with Chase. Not just because I got my partial refund, but I also noted that despite the Chase card not being ‘officially supported’ by Android Pay I still accrue the correct rewards points percentage on my credit card.

Android Pay is working just fine as far as I am concerned.

Credits and Rewards points work just fine with Android Pay.

Credits and Rewards points work just fine with Android Pay.





Sprint Overdrive 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot by Sierra Wireless

6 04 2011

Hotspot Dashboard - Click to Enlarge

Sprint offer a wireless hotspot device for their 3g and 4g networks. I took a device on evaluation from Sprint recently and tested how well it worked at my home. My address is not listed as supported for Clearwire wireless internet, which is the same network as the Sprint 4g devices use. So I was interested to see how well it would work.

AT&T DSL Speeds - Click to Enlarge

First I tested the speed of my AT&T DSL broadband as a comparison between wireless and land-line capability. My DSL is marginal where I live (which seems to apply to any service I have looked into). DSL Download/Upload speeds achieved were 2.35 Mb down and 0.32 Mb up. Pretty pedestrian by today’s broadband offerings and demands from services such as Netflix streaming.

Sprint 3g Speeds - Click to Enlarge

I then switched on the Sprint Hotspot device. It sync’d using 3g only. Power cycling didn’t encourage it to connect to 4g at all. Maybe my home is just too far out. The speeds I got with Sprint 3g are 0.33 Mb Down and 0.24 Mb Up. Very slow indeed. I got much better speeds using my Droid as a tethered modem using Verizon wireless 3g network.

Perturbed by the very slow speeds I decided read the manual and discovered where the factory reset button is. Being an eval unit someone ahead of me may have set some weird and wonderful setting. After a successful reset and reboot the device immediately connected to the 4G network. I checked the firmware, it is up to date, all it needed was a factory reset.

Sprint 4g - Click to Enlarge

The signal strength varied between 20% and 40%, so my address is clearly marginal for Sprint. I tested the performance and got 4.92 Mbs Down and 0.92 Mbs Up. Much better and superior to my AT&T DSL. This is fast enough to support HD quality movie streaming from Netflix and others. I am due to get uVerse installed in a few days so will update this post with those speeds as a direct comparison.

The hotspot device can be used as a Wifi hotspot supporting up to 5 clients, or as a tethered device. The management console is clear and easy to use. I was able to change from WEP encryption to WPA2 easily enough, the unit rebooted after this change and worked just fine.

I switched on GPS location to see how that would work. The unit consistently failed to get a GPS lock inside my home. My Motorola Droid never has issues, so the GPS sensitivity for this device seems poor.

The device looks like a hockey puck, is reasonably light and is easily thrown into a laptop bag. It uses a universal Micro USB charger, so you don’t need to carry its charging cable/wall plug if you already have one for your phone or other device(s). As standard the device comes with a quick start guide. To get the full manual, one needs to download this from Sprints support website.

Compared to Verizon wireless LTE, the Sprint network is a step behind in terms of raw speed. Reports of 10Mb down and 3 Mb up on Verizon LTE hotspots reveal that the Verizon 4g is a step above the older Sprint/Clearwire 4g. Speed isn’t everything though. Verizon put a 10GB monthly cap on their hotspot devices, Sprint’s claim to fame is that their unlimited means truly unlimited. So if you want to stream Netflix movies and therefore consume large amounts of bandwidth, the Spring hotspot device makes better financial sense.

If AT&T U-verse disappoints, I will seriously consider a Clearwire modem or this 4g hotspot from Sprint. As much as I like LTE from Verizon and already being  a Verizon customer, the 10GB cap would be way too restrictive for my home internet needs. Sprint have made the right choice in not placing caps on their wireless service, no one wants an unexpected bill at the end of the month because you used ‘too much’ bandwidth. 10GB is hardly classifiable as hogging bandwidth in this day and age. A 10GB cap on a individual smartphone sounds OK, but on a  hot spot, it’s outlandish. Congratulations to Sprint for getting this right, shame on Verizon.





Nissan LEAF Test Drive

27 03 2011

Nissan LEAF during a test drive. Click to enlarge

On March 26th 2011 Nissan held a test drive event for their all electric car, the Nissan LEAF at Franklin TN.

The Event

This was a source of disappointment. Nissan set up a series of tents on the Parking lot of their Headquarters in Franklin TN. It was a cold and damp day and the tents had no form of heat. Punters had to be content wearing multiple layers of clothes as they listened to a sales pitch and lined up to drive the LEAF’s. I had a 1pm appointment time scheduled. Other than quick registration, the appointment didn’t assure you of a  place in line or any priority, one lined up with walk-ins. The ‘refreshment’ lounge consisted of a cup of instant coffee and a packet of cheez-its. It made me feel the event was done on a tight budget. The guy delivering information about the car and the logistics of the event was both upbeat and informative. He was the only spark of life I saw that day.

Nissan LEAF Battery Pack mockup - Click to enlarge

The LEAF reservation system

I am on the list of 20,000 people who have first refusal on a  new vehicle. I have not taken advantage of this since I would never buy a  vehicle without seeing it in person and have a test drive. I also Read the rest of this entry »





Google’s Two Step Verification – Why everyone needs to use it

15 03 2011

Google Authenticator Logo

Google have introduced a new feature called 2-step verification. To learn the basics read the Google Guide.

Why you Need it

This feature is a must have security feature that should make it very difficult for anyone to hack into your Google account, which is much more than simply your email. Google has a slew of products that you maybe using that store detailed personal information about you. Protecting this information is important to prevent Identity Fraud

Using the 2-step verification ensures that only authorized computers/devices will accept your Google password therefore restricting access to your Google email and other data. If someone finds out Read the rest of this entry »





New Madrid Fault becomes active !!

25 10 2010

Click to view Chart

I noticed that there has been a marked increase in reported minor earthquakes along the New Madrid Fault in the last 2-3 weeks. I receive email reports each time a tremor is detected by the USGS. To see how much more activity there has been I tallied the email reports by month over the last 2-3 years. In October 2010 we see a sharp jump in the number of tremors detected by the USGS. (See update at foot of this post for latest information)

Recently a book was published indicating that the New Madrid fault is going dormant and will not pose a threat to those living along it. I am unsure how to interpret this recent spike in activity but it does not seem to be going dormant to me :-) On average 150 quakes are detected per year along this fault, few if any are ever felt since they are very minor tremors. The number of tremors has already exceeded this in October 2010 alone and the month has yet to come to an end!!

Is this the harbinger of things to come for the Midwest? Will we see a  repeat of the 1811 and 1812 quakes on this fault when the Mississippi river flowed backwards for 3 days and reelfoot lake was created.

About 12 years ago insurance companies removed earthquake protection from standard homeowner policies for middle Tennessee customers. Today one has to request the coverage and pay an additional premium to reinstate coverage. Even if you pay for the coverage there is typically a $50,000 deductible. Clearly the insurance actuaries are a little concerned a quake could occur soon. Lets hope and pray this is the fault line harmlessly releasing pressure – better to have hundreds of very small quakes rather than just one big one.

There is little discussion on the net regarding this increased activity. A lot of speculation like this, but no real scientific analysis or commentaries.

What do you think this means if anything?

Update: 2011-03-16

I’ve continued to monitor the earthquake activity on the New Madrid fault, activity dipped for a month or two December and January but has picked up again during February and March 2011. See latest chart below.

Click to enlarge chart





New Kindle Owner – Week 2

22 09 2010

Reading Experience

I’ve read a fictional novel in the past week and have started to read a non-fictional book. It was great for the Kindle system to keep my place in the books and be able to easily switch between my Kindle and my android phone and pickup where I left off on the other device. I did not use my PC’s to do any reading last week. It is neat to see your progression through a book represented as percentage complete.

I found if light got low and a reading light was not readily available, switching to the droid allowed for low light reading. I didn’t do this often, most of the time I had enough light to read by, as one would with a physical book. The automatic bookmark synchronization between devices was very convenient. I never lost my place once :-)

Why I chose the Kindle in the first place

Amazon Kindle

Several of my blog readers asked me to compare the Kindle to the Nook. I don’t have a Nook but will share with you  my reasoning for picking the Kindle over the other e-book readers on the market. I was looking for an e-ink device so will not compare to the iPad in this analysis.

In my opinion the front runners in the e-book reading marketplace are the Kindle and the Nook. The Kobo and Sony are e-ink readers but I quickly eliminated them from my choices available based on the market share they have and reviews about them I had read online. The Kobo got poor reviews and the Sony I saw in Office Depot and did not like how it handled or looked.

The Nook and Kindle are both backed by large libraries of e-books, and both offer free classics.

B&N Nook

The Nook has some unique and interesting features that make it very attractive.

  • Free assistance from employees at Barnes & Noble stores
  • Read any e-book for free for one hour while at a Barnes & Noble store.
  • Color touchscreen book covers and menus, (book text is black & white).
  • Ability to ‘lend or borrow’ books between Nook friends, restricted to 14 day loan period.
  • Reasonable quantity of  Text Books in e-book format.
  • Extend-able memory through Micro-SD Memory slot.
  • EPub ‘open’ e-book format supported.
  • Runs on open source Android operating system, a true computer OS.

The Kindle 3 also has some unique features.

  • WhisperSync – keeps your place between reading devices (Nook website says ‘coming soon’).
  • Integration and account synchronization with Audible.com audio book library.
  • WebKit based browser which results in great web page rendering.
  • Extraordinary battery life – one month without wireless.
  • Lightest e-book reader in its class.
  • Free 3g web browsing.

The Nook features are very strong and technically it probably is the better reader, so why did I choose the Kindle over the Nook?

The two clinchers for me were

  1. The Financial solidity of Amazon. With e-books they are stored by the host company in a library. You can download from the library to your device. If you lose your device or it breaks, the books you purchased are still with the host company and available for download again. Barnes & Noble are unprofitable and in August 2010 put themselves up for sale. What will the future of the B&N e-book library be? No one can know and the uncertainty of this makes me skittish about putting dollars into a library of books I may lose control / access to in the not to distant future.
  2. Integration with Audible.com. I have been an Audible subscriber for 6 months or more and have quite a collection of audio books. These are instantly available on the Kindle because Amazon own Audible.com. I have listened to some of my audio books on the Kindle and they play as well as any MP3 player I have. For now one still has to buy audio and e-books separately and could end up paying twice. I am hopeful, as Amazon continue to integrate Audible into the Kindle ecosystem that a single payment will give access to both formats.

Had Barnes & Noble been more financially stable, my choice would have been much closer.

Books Read last week

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larrson. Murder Mystery fictional book. Highly recommended

Lies, Damn Lies and Science – Sherry Seethaler – Non fictional – Not enough read to recommend.

Oh yeah and I read the Kindle Users Guide :-)





Pre-Release version of Kindle 3 software available

21 09 2010

Amazon have posted a preview version of a software update for the Kindle latest generation. The software is available for a limited time. If you intend to update be sure to download before it is removed

The release fixes several issues including

  • Slow web-browsing
  • Slow page turns in bright sunlight.

I find it ironic that page turns with the current Kindle 3 are slower in bright sunlight, especially after Amazon’s latest TV ad poking fun at the iPad’s readability in bright sunlight. I’m sure they will release the software update as soon as possible to save getting too much egg on their face regarding the sunlight issue. I believe their TV Ad campaign is flawed, read more here.

.To learn more about the Kindle visit the Kindle product page