Barclays B-Pay: Why Bother?

After the recent re-launch of Barclays’ wearables suite, John Schaffer experiences the technology first hand

After the recent re-launch of Barclays’ wearables suite, John Schaffer experiences the technology first hand

 Upon receiving all three of Barclays’ wearable offerings, I have to say I was a little under-whelmed.

 Included in a rather oversized box was a wristband, key-fob and sticker – priced at £24.99, £19.99 and £14.99 respectively. Aesthetically, all three products looked a little cheap and tacky – especially the wristband, the rubber and plastic combo looked a bit like a child’s toy. Perhaps the design isn’t too significant on the key fob or sticker, but on the wristband where the device will be constantly on display, it has to at least look reasonably tasteful.

 Seemingly, Barclays should have adopted a similar approach to Apple when it comes to wearables. The Apple Watch at least looks like a normal watch of decent quality, although the appeal of smart-watches is also a little bit questionable.

 In use, B-Pay works much like a contactless card and is still subject to the £20 transaction cap. Much like a contactless card, you tap the device against an NFC terminal and, on the whole, the process is fairly frictionless – even if you do receive a rather bemused look from shop assistants.

 B-Pay essentially functions as a pre-paid card. Users can top up their B-pay accounts via a smartphone app using any UK debit card. The service is not restricted merely to Barclays customers. Users can use the app to keep track of their recent purchases, receiving information such as transaction amounts and location.

 The real issue with B-Pay is that I’m struggling to find a legitimate use for Barclays’ wearable technology. If you already have a contactless card, why on earth would you bother?

 Aside from the wristband, the sticker seems rather redundant as well. The idea is that you stick it on the back of your phone, which frankly looks a little messy.

 The key fob is the only product that has any real appeal to me. If my wallet were to be stolen, the key fob could be used as an emergency back-up if the worst came to the worst. At least I’d be able to get a train home as B-Pay is compatible with London’s Oyster service.

 I think it’s unlikely that B-Pay will catch on. However, wearables in general have had a rather muted consumer uptake. Even the much-hyped Apple Watch has been far less popular than expected. For wearables to have any real success, they will have to be presented as a useful offering that is not seen as merely a gimmick to consumers.