Competition in the mobile payments space is set to intensify, with the news that after a long wait Apple Pay has gone live in Ireland.

Its launch will enable people using certain Apple mobile devices to pay for goods and services in tens of thousands of retail outlets around the country where contactless payments are accepted.

They will also be able to use the system to pay for purchases on participating apps and websites.

The Apple Pay launch comes two-and-a-half years after its initial roll-out in the US and three months after Google's rival Android Pay mobile payment service was released here.

"The roll-out passage of Apple Pay takes work in terms of integrating together with banks and with networks, and obviously with Apple as well," said Apple Vice-President Jennifer Bailey who is in charge of Apple Pay.

"So it is really a process about working through, doing that work with all the different parties and getting folks ready for a particular country."

Two Irish banks - KBC and Ulster Bank - will initially offer the Apple Pay service on their credit and debit cards, although others are likely to follow.

"We're currently in conversation with banks across the world about supporting Apple Pay, adding new feature support for Apple Pay and we look forward to bringing Apple Pay to more of our customers in Ireland with additional banks," said Ms Bailey.

KBC also offers the Android Pay service to its customers, along with AIB. Samsung's version of the technology, Samsung Pay, has not yet arrived here.

According to the latest data from Statcounter, 41% of mobile users here use Apple mobile devices while almost 57% use phones and tablets that utilise the Google Android operating system.

Although contactless cards have an upper single transaction limit, Apple does not put such a restriction on individual transactions carried out using its system, although retailers may still put one in place and bank card daily withdrawal limits will still apply.

Apple Pay works in a similar manner to contactless card payments in retail outlets. Cards must first be added to the Wallet app on the Apple device.

The user then briefly holds their iPhone, Apple Watch or iPad over the payment terminal and either quickly double clicks the home button to pick a card to use, or waits for the phone to wake up automatically when it senses the payment terminal.

They then put their finger on the finger print scanner on the device or enter a PIN to confirm the transaction.

According to Apple, the system is secure because rather than the card number being stored on the device or in Apple's servers, a unique Device Account Number is assigned, encrypted and securely stored in the device.

A one-time changing security code is then used to allow the transfer of the transaction details to the merchant.

In order to use Apple Pay the user must be using an iPhone 6 or later, iPhone SE, iPad Pro, iPad Air2, iPad mini 3 or later, or an Apple Watch paired to an iPhone 5 or later.

On websites and in apps that support Apple Pay, users will also be able to pay for items.

However, they will have to be using Safari on any Mac introduced in or after 2012 running Mac OS Sierra and they will have to confirm the payment with iPhone 6 or later or Apple Watch, or with the fingerprint reader on the new MacBook Pro.

Online and mobile banking and payments are rapidly growing in popularity here, with KBC recording a 74% rise in usage last year.

"If you look at statistics for mobile phone usage in Ireland we are ... one of the highest in Western Europe and in that regard we are primed to become one of the pioneers for a cashless society," said Eddie Dillon, Director of Innovation at KBC.

While Ulster Bank claims its experience shows people want to embrace digital payments and banking technology.

"Through our mobile banking services that is up 22% from 2015 to 2016, so clearly the trajectory is going in the right way," said Maeve McMahon, Director of Customer Experience and Products, Ulster Bank.

"We also have experience with RBS and Natwest and we can see that when they [mobile payments] launched they were slow to begin with but then took off."