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Apple Pay will let you rent a Bird scooter without downloading the app

Tap your phone, and start the ride

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Apple and Bird are working together to make the process of renting a dockless electric scooter even easier. Soon, anyone with an iPhone can use Apple Pay’s NFC tag to unlock and rent a Bird scooter, completely bypassing the e-scooter company’s app.

The news was first mentioned by Jennifer Bailey, Apple’s vice president for internet services, in her keynote at the 2019 Transact conference in Las Vegas, which is geared toward people in the payment industry. In addition to Bird, Bailey also said that Apple was working with a parking meter payment company called PayByRide and Walmart’s e-commerce subsidiary Bonobos.

Finding and renting a Bird scooter today isn’t particularly difficult, so the fact that Apple and Bird see this as an opportunity to make a relatively frictionless experience even more frictionless (frictionless-ier?) is interesting. Right now, you download the Bird app, find the closest scooter on the map, scan the QR code, and away you go. This new function would eliminate all of those steps and allow you to just tap your phone against the e-scooter to initiate the transaction and start your ride.

There are a few requirements: you need to have Apple Pay and a phone with an NFC chip (iPhone 7, 8, or X), you must be 18 years old or older, and you’ll need to agree to Bird’s terms of service. Tapping the phone against the scooter will automatically open Bird’s website on your phone where you can do all that.

For Apple, this is a way to broaden the use cases of Apple Pay to functions that would typically take place within a smartphone app. At the Transact conference, Bailey said Apple was looking to break down barriers by introducing shortcuts using NFC tags, according to PaymentsSource. For Bird, it’s about getting as many people on its scooters as possible — including first-time riders who have yet to download the app.

“Similar to checking out at a grocery store that is Apple Pay-enabled, individuals, whether they have the Bird app downloaded, will now be able to utilize Apple Pay’s NFC feature to easily begin a Bird ride,” said a source close to the matter. “This global feature will enable people to have seamless access to a sustainable mobility option, while knowing that their information is secure with Apple Pay.”