The technology for a successful mobile wallet has long been available for consumer phones, but the strategy has been lacking. There are too many interested parties with too many ideas to fully realize a unified mobile payments system. Many believe the Apple might be the company to discover the silver bullet for mobile payments, and that time might be upon us.
According to The Information (paywall), Apple might be gearing up to release a mobile payments system this fall, and Visa is already onboard with the project. Interestingly, it sounds like Visa isn’t the only credit card company that is discussing the initiative. When Apple talks, companies listen.
It doesn’t sound like the strategy is anything groundbreaking – credit card information will be uploaded to a wallet app, and the phone will use NFC to transmit that data at a checkout terminal.
So why the holdup? Apple has been hard at work ensuring that the system would keep users’ financial information behind lock and key, and Touch ID was another step towards that end.
Apple has told some partners its system would involve a so-called secured element in the phones—a piece of hardware where sensitive information such as a phone owner’s financial credentials can be stored. The company also aims to run the system without giving up any control to wireless carriers.
In late May, 9to5mac reported that Apple was deep in discussions with retail entities concerning the difficulties in enabling a mobile payments services.
Every retail outlet has unique payment and transaction practices, so building a single mobile payments solution will require extensive research from Apple, and the company appears to be in that research and development phase. Apple has also been asking retailers to survey customers regarding potential interest in paying for items with their smartphones and other mobile devices. Apple also has been seeking general insight from retail store chains to see if the companies would be interested in utilizing an Apple payments service.
Later in the same article it is also said that the payments system didn’t appear close to being ready, so it’s anyone’s guess when the service actually drops. On the other hand, recent leaks show an NFC chip in the iPhone 6 motherboard – and we know what NFC is used for.
The few things we do know are as follows: Apple is focusing more heavily on mobile payments, and Apple will not release a system unless it is ready (especially after the Maps debacle).
Personally, I was one of those people who believed Apple would be the company to figure out mobile payments, so I’ve been excited by these reports. Unfortunately, like the iPhone 6 and iWatch/iTime, we’ll have to play the waiting game to see what’s really in store for us.