Apple moves hint at imminent mobile payment deployment

POSTED BY Windsor Holden
For the past few years, Apple has been conspicuous by its absence from the mobile payments environment. Two years ago, many in the industry – including yours truly – believed that it was on the point of including an NFC chipset in the iPhone 5, but when the big announcement was made, the iPhone 5 was well and truly NFC chipsetless. This week, numerous media are reporting that Apple is now interviewing “senior industry executives” for two new mobile payments positions at the company. This was followed by further positive comments about the sector by Tim Cook, in the wake of strong quarterly earnings from Apple: Cook reiterated that mobile payments “is an area of interest to us”. Quite. Hence the interviews; hence Apple’s contactless payments patent issued in January 2014 with the exciting moniker, ‘Method to send payment data through various air interface without compromising user data’. It is clear, then, that Apple is moving into the mobile payments space, the pertinent questions being (a) when and (b) in what form. As we argue in our recent report on contactless payments, it seems increasingly likely that the next iteration of the iPhone – expected in September - will be enabled with some form of contactless payment facility, most likely combining BLE and AN Other technology (which may or may not be NFC) and with an embedded secure element. Such a move would also enable Apple to leverage the 800 million plus iTunes accounts in the physical environment, which would also be another no-brainer. In fact, one could argue that the only factor holding Apple back is a concern that when they finally do deploy a proximity payment solution, they do it right: as Cook concluded in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, "I realize that there are some companies playing in [the mobile payments space], but you still have a wallet in your back pocket and I do too which probably means it hasn’t been figured out just yet.”