Aware that Steve Jobs famously told iPhone users they were ‘holding it wrong’ when the iPhone 4 suffered antenna-gate, I was hesitant to write a post which suggested that people were using Apple Pay wrong on the tube, but based on my experiences some people are struggling to get through the barriers quickly using Apple Pay.

Ironically, some people actually are holding their iPhone wrong too when paying, but I’ll get to that later.

What seems to be being missed by some commuters who are using Apple Pay on the tube is that there are TWO ways to start an Apple Pay transaction, and one of them is much slower than the other.

Here are the two methods (three now, as I’ve added a flow for the iPhone X):

  1. Hold your phone over the contactless reader.
    - Ensure your fingerprint is already on the TouchID reader.
    (On iPhone X, ensure the phone can authenticate you using FaceID)
    - Wait for the phone to come to life, and the gates to open.

This method works, however those following it (which I did for a while) are those poor unfortunate souls that are being tutted and sighed at by the baying crowd.

Because it takes about a second for your phone to wake up, another second for it to authenticate via TouchID/FaceID, and then another half-second for the phone to buzz and the gates to open, two and a half seconds can suddenly feel like a long time with an angry commuter at the rear.

The good news is, there’s a second (much quicker) method that I want to explain:

(iPhone 6 / 6S / SE / 7 / 8 method)

iPhone X is slightly different, please go to method 3

2. Before arriving at the barrier, double-tap your home button.
(Don’t unlock the iPhone, just double press the home button)
- Your default payment card appears.
- Hold your finger against the fingerprint sensor for a moment.
- “Pay with Touch ID” will change to “Hold Near Reader”.
(You can remove your finger from the TouchID sensor now)
- Hold your phone against the yellow reader.
- The phone will buzz straight away & the barriers will open.

Ta-dah! That was much quicker, right? Now have a practice…

(iPhone X Method)

3. Before arriving at the barrier, double-press the sleep/wake button.

- Your default payment card appears.
- Authenitcate using FaceID.
- “Face ID” will change to “Hold Near Reader”.
- Hold your phone against the yellow reader.
- The phone will buzz straight away & the barriers will open.

To recap, using the second method means you’re preparing your phone for the payment before you get to the NFC reader/barriers. You don’t need mobile signal to do this, it’s the same as the first option, but you’re not waiting for the phone to detect the contactless reader.

You’re also pre-authorising your fingerprint/face before you get there, saving vital seconds when the people behind are looking for an excuse to sigh.


A few hot tips for those who want to try out the second method:

  • (iPhone 6–8) The iPhone’s TouchID sensor reads fingerprints quickly. By default it will unlock your phone if you double-tap the home button too slowly. Click-click quick.
  • (iPhone 6–8) If double-clicking isn’t working, you might have unknowingly turned it off at some point, here’s how to turn it back on:
    - Go to Settings.
    - Then Wallet & Apple Pay.
    - Enable the “Double-Click Home Button” option.
  • Using the double-click option does not make Apple Pay less secure. You still need to provide TouchID/FaceID authentication each time you use it.
  • You can leave your phone on the “Hold Near Reader ” screen for one minute. You’ve authorised TouchID/FaceID already, so you can be ready and prepared for a whole minute before you get to the barrier. Stress free.
    After the minute passes, the phone will sleep-lock again and you’ll need to double-click and re-authenticate your TouchID/FaceID.

Now, let’s clear up the ‘holding it wrong’ thing.

I’ve seen people standing at the barriers holding the phone in a variety of awkward looking ways as they try to use Apple Pay.

The iPhone uses a technology for Apple Pay called NFC (Near Field Communication) which requires that the phone be held close to, or touching, the yellow reader as you would with a contactless debit card or Oyster card.

Each antenna in iPhone is specific to its use, there are various antennae built-in to different area’s of your phone, but the NFC antenna which is used for Apple Pay is at the top, on the rear side of the iPhone right near the camera, as highlighted below:

This section should be held against the reader, your phone should be facing upwards for the transaction to work smoothly/quickly. The same rule applies to the newly released iPhone X. The top/rear casing contains the Apple Pay anetnna on the iPhone X too.

If you have problems with the phone reporting you need to move it closer to the reader, you may be holding it wrong, or the signal may be being blocked by your case if it’s particularly thick/padded or contains metal. Battery cases (such as Mophie) can interfere with Apple Pay’s contactless signal more than others.

That’s it!

Thanks for reading — Hopefully you’ve found this useful and will be speeding through the barriers on the tube the way that Apple intended. If one less person is tutted by an angry commuter, writing this article will have been worthwhile.


*This article is re-published. I wrote it in December 2015 on LinkedIn.*