Wireless payments have a significant potential to change the way people make purchases, providing a convenient way for consumers to keep all of their payments in a single pay in order to quickly and easily make payments using their smartphones.
While suggestions that Apple may incorporate Near Field Communications (NFC) or other mobile payment technology into the iPhone are nothing new, new reports suggesting partnerships between Apple and financial corporations such as Visa and Mastercard have brought new light to the topic.
Two recent FastCompany interviews have suggested that Apple may be working with payment partners such as Visa and Mastercard. In the first of these interviews, Visa Global Head of Mobile Product Bill Gadja was asked whether Apple might consider licensing their PayWave technology, and offered the following response:
I can’t tell you when Apple is going to put NFC in the next version of the iPhone, but we’ve had discussions with them around the PayWave standard and they’ve asked to look at our specification and certification process so that when they decide to do something those lines of communication are open.
The idea that Apple is reportedly considering the technology enough to request more information is extremely interesting. Visa announced at CES 2012 that they had certified a number of Android phones to be compatible with their PayWave technology. The technology is currently licensed to Google on a royalty-free basis.
Meanwhile, a second interview with MasterCard head of emerging payments Ed McLaughlin suggests that Apple may be working with MasterCard on supporting their PayPass mobile payment standard as well:
“The timeline is always as rapid as it makes sense for consumers,” he says. “That’s a combination of having a critical mass of the merchants, which is what you’re seeing right now, and getting devices into the hands of consumers. I don’t know of a handset manufacturer that isn’t in process of making sure their stuff is PayPass ready.”
Stating that he doesn’t know of a handset manufacturer that isn’t working on PayPass ready devices seems to imply that Apple is working on such an inclusion as well. When questioned specifically about Apple, McLaughlin responded:
Um, there are…like I say, [I don't know of] any handset maker out there. Now, when we have discussions with our partners, and they ask us not to disclose them, we don’t.
To add fuel to the fire, 9to5Mac reports on a discussion they had with a “well-connected developer” at Macworld|iWorld who is working on an app which uses NFC for mobile transactions, and states that they are confident “enough to bet the app development on” that Apple is working on supporting NFC for mobile payments as well
We had some time to talk to a well-connected developer at Macworld who was building an app that— among other capabilities— includes NFC reading for the purpose of mobile transactions. We were obviously curious why they would do that, noting that third party NFC readers for iPhone were not popular […[ The developer told us that he had no hardware knowledge, but he had spoken to Apple iOS engineers on multiple occasions, and they are “heavy into NFC.”
Indeed, Apple’s support of mobile payment technologies is a very big deal. Apple has proven time and time again their ability to transform technologies, and to bring standards into the mainstream by integrating then into their products.
Discussions of Apple building NFC into future iPhones predate the iPhone 4S by many months. A March 2011 New York Times report claimed that Apple was in fact interested in building the technology into future phones, but was unable to indicate when this might happen. The report also suggested that Apple may integrate such a solution with users’ Apple IDs/iTunes accounts for payments.
In the end, as with all Apple-related rumors, nothing is certain, but there does seem to be an ever-increasing number of reasons to think that Apple might embrace wireless payment standards such as NFC. The real question is when.