The Origin app by EA is a perfectly safe and verified piece of software from EA. It acts as a video game library and authentication platform, and is necessary to play certain EA games on PC. Always download from official or verified sources; malicious software can be released under this name.
It does not cost to download or use EA's Origin app. It does cost to buy games and use particular services, such as EA Access. But if you already own EA games, or have promotional codes for them, you will not need to pay anything to use this app.
In order to use EA's Origin platform, you will need an EA account. This can be signed up for on the EA site, or through various platforms, for free. Certain services, such as EA Access, do cost money, however. To use these services you will need to pay a subscription fee.
The question of whether the Origin app is worth it is a subjective one. Many people resent being forced to use it in order to play certain games. The truth is, if you really want to play games that are only supported through EA's Origin platform, then the app is worth it.
The Origin platform does have achievements, as well as points in the form of Origin Points. These are awarded for completing certain tasks in games, such as finishing a level, or collecting all of something. This feature was an addition to the initial launch, and not all games support Origin achievements.
The payment options for Origin vary from country to country, but you can generally expect to be able to pay with credit cards, debit cards, EA Cash Cards, EA Wallet balances, and more. It is also possible to use PayPal, which will allow you to pay using a credit card.
Though the Origin service does offer promotions from time to time, including discounted prices on certain games, they are on record as saying they would never go to the extremes that rival app, Steam, regularly do, with some discounts reaching as much as 90%. EA worry this "cheapens" videos games in general.
Despite a significant negative sentiment towards the app, the Origin platform has proven to be very profitable for the company, and many users are happy with the experience. This, coupled with no indication to the contrary from EA, would seem to suggest that there is no intention to abandon the app.
Creating an Origin account, which is needed to use the Origin app itself, is simple. Navigate to the Origin website, enter your email address in the field shown, hit "next", and follow the instructions. Alternatively, you can begin this process from inside the app itself, or through certain console games.
There are no big fixes to speed up download times in EA Origin, however there are some things EA claim will help. Firstly, ensure you are running EA Origin as administrator. Secondly, ensure you are not storing games on a FAT32 file system. Finally, check nothing else is using your network connection.