Apple Appears to Move Closer to Launching a Payments Platform

  • Philip Ryan
  • December 4, 2013
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apple_moneyApple has made several feints toward becoming a full-fledged payments company in the past, and the signs keep piling up.

Perhaps most telling is the Motley Fool report today that “Apple is looking for a Payments Software Engineer that will ‘help build a next generation payment platform.'” Rumors have swirled for years that Apple intends to leverage its more than 575 million cards on file in iTunes into a wider payments platform. It is already a simple matter for iTunes customers to quickly purchase access to media with a single click, and in the case of the iPhone 5S, a mere touch of the thumbprint. Technically, iTunes is a payments platform, just one with limited functionality.

Within the last month, Apple has filed patent applications for paying with a wave of the iPhone, as well as entering coupons and scanning QR codes with Passbook. Rumors have also swirled about Apple building applications to allow for payments with the iWatch, and a person-to-person payments platform built around iTunes.

But the real elephant in the room is Apple’s long-expected iWallet mobile wallet, which will either incorporate Passbook as it now stands or vice versa. New patents were filed for iWallet in late November for reading QR codes; for enhanced security features; for invoicing using “optical coupling” — and in this context don’t forget Apple’s new patent for facial recognition and acquisition of Israeli company PrimeSense, which makes 3D sensors — and for using iTunes to fund cashless transactions.

In general retail sales, Apple is no slouch, either:

  • iOS walloped Android 6-to-1 in Black Friday shopping last week. This is likely due largely to Apple’s strong showing in the tablet space, and the important role tablets are playing in holiday shopping this year.
  • Macy’s began testing in-store offers with Apple’s iBeacon technology (via the Shopkick app) in New York and San Francisco in mid-November.

It’s not a question of if, but when for Apple’s more general payments platform. In the past, Apple has toyed with NFC and abandoned it, and, in general, has seemed in no hurry to enter a space that lacks clear direction. The hunt continues.

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Philip Ryan is Senior Editor of Bank Innovation and Senior Director of INV Fintech. He began covering financial services in 2012 and has more than 15 years' experience in online journalism. He can be reached at pryan@royalmedia.com.

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