Apple Pay
Image source: Apple.

It's been a long, slow road to getting mobile payments off the ground -- and no company can claim a major victory so far. But new data shows that among the merchants expanding into mobile payments, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is by the far the most desired. 

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster conducted a survey of more than 500 point-of-sale merchants and found that 44% have either set up a mobile payment system already, or will soon, and 67% of them want Apple Pay.

There are, of course, other options. Alphabet's (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google has Android Pay, there's Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) Pay, and PayPal (NASDAQ:PYPL) has its own mobile payments option, but merchants aren't so keen on these, according to Munster. His survey showed that only 18% were interested in Android Pay, followed by 8% for PayPal, and just 7% for Samsung Pay.

Munster was particularly surprised by PayPal's dismal results, saying that it was "telling that PayPal, who has been the leader in digital payments, so significantly under-indexed Apple Pay and Android Pay."

Why Apple might be leading
In all fairness, Apple Pay launched about a year before Samsung Pay and Android Pay and is available in more countries that its competitors. That's allowed Apple Pay to amass a user base of about 12 million, compared to just 5 million for Android Pay and Samsung Pay. 

A recent Bloomberg article noted that Samsung Pay is growing faster than Apple's service right now, which isn't all that surprising considering it launched much more recently and has further to catch up. 

But it's worth noting that none of the mobile wallet services are really succeeding at the moment. Crone Consulting says that just 6% of Apple users that have access to Apple Pay are using it, 4% of Samsung users are utilizing Samsung Pay and just 1% of Android users are using its mobile wallet. Those are pretty low numbers all across the board. 

Which prompts the question: What are Apple and the other companies hoping to get from the slow rollout of mobile payment systems? Let's just say that Apple isn't really banking on making gobs of money from its mobile payment service. Munster actually thinks Apple Pay will account for less than 1% of the company's earnings and revenue in 2017. But that doesn't make the service insignificant. 

"Apple Pay's significance is an engagement tool, which longer term is a must have for any successful phone as cash slowly goes away," Munster wrote. That won't help investors who are a worried about Apple's slowing iPhone sales, but it could help with the iPhone's long-term prospects. The switch from cash to digital payments will be a slow move, but it's certainly heading in that direction. By 2019, $142 billion in mobile payments will be made by users, according to Forrester Research.

So Apple, and its investors, should be pleased with the company's position right now. Merchants can make or break which mobile payment services take off -- and it appears Apple has nothing to worry about. 

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Chris Neiger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Apple, and PayPal Holdings. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.