The late, great social critic Neil Postman used to pose a question that had to be asked whenever a new technology appeared in the marketplace: "What is the problem to which this is the solution?"
It was a rigged question, of course, because more often than not the answer was "Nothing."
As Kevin Drum and Neil Irwin (among others) point out, the technical term for this is "big whoop." At the introductory event, Apple executives made much of the insecurity of the conventional credit card, and they're right--as the baleful experience of shoppers at Target, Home Depot and other hacked retailers shows. But the solution to credit card hacking is already being rolled out in the U.S., years behind the rest of the world: chip-bearing smart cards, which protect payment information much more securely.
Apple Pay raises another question Postman used to ask: "Who gains special economic and political power from this new technology?" In this case the answer is plainly Apple, which will extract a fee for purchases made by Apple Pay and use the system as a come-on to sell iPhones and watches, tying its customers more deeply into the Apple ecosystem. Think of it as a network enhancement; once your payment habits are tied to the iPhone, it will be all the more difficult for you to switch to an Android device.
Apple Pay may be, in some circumstances, a convenience. But is it earth-shaking? Paying for things with credit cards simply isn't a huge burden; as Irwin points out, most people with Pay-enabled iPhones will probably have to carry their credit cards with them as backup anyway. The revolutionary advance of Apple Pay, so far, is still just Apple spin.