Tim Cook Hints At Apple Mobile Payment Technology

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Apple CEO says mobile payment technology is “intriguing” and hints Touch ID could play a part

Apple CEO Tim Cook has hinted to investors that the company is working on mobile payment technology that could potentially let iTunes users pay for goods in physical stores using their account details or by using the Touch ID fingerprint sensor featured in the iPhone 5S.

A report last week in the Wall Street Journal suggested that Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Service, who runs iTunes and the App Store had held meetings with industry executives to discuss the company’s plans for mobile payments.

During an earnings call to discuss Apple’s latest results, Cook was asked whether there was any truth to the claims. He did not reveal anything concrete, but said the company was “intrigued” by mobile payments and said users “loved” being able to pay for content using Touch ID.

Apple mobile payments

Tim-Cook-Apple-CEO-lead“It’s incredibly simple and easy and elegant and it’s clear that there’s a lot of opportunity there,” he said. “The mobile payments area in general is one that we’ve been intrigued with.

“You can tell by looking at the demographics of our customers, and the amount of commerce that goes through iOS devices versus the competition, that it’s a big opportunity on the platform.”

Apple has apparently been interested in launching a mobile payment platform since 2012, but scrapped plans for a mobile wallet over fears customers might blame the company for a bad experience with a merchant.

Support for Near Field Communication (NFC) technology was widely expected in the iPhone 5 but never materialised and Cook said last year that mobile payment technology was in its “infancy”. However a patent application for a method of payment for goods though a signal sent from a phone to a wireless receiver has reignited speculation.

Card information goldmine

Apple currently has 575 million registered iTunes users and has sold around 375 million iPhones in the last five years and 155 million iPads since 2010, meaning it has a huge amount of credit and debit card details on file and a customer base that is accustomed to paying for digital content.

Any mobile payment system would bring it into direct competition with the likes of PayPal and Google, while mobile operators in the UK are also working on payment services and a number of banks have agreed to incorporate Zapp technology into their mobile apps.

Whoever establishes a lead in the field first could take advantage of a potentially massive market. A report last week from Worldpay suggested that alternative payment methods such as e-wallets will be more popular than credit and debit cards by 2017.

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