Apple iWallet patent (Transactions icon)

Apple thus far has filed for a number of patents related to mobile payments, all seemingly pointing to a unified mobile payments solution dubbed iWallet. The most recent filing details a new transaction patent which goes to great lengths highlighting methods for conducting and managing financial transactions on smartphones such as the iPhone, giving hope that Apple engineers could in fact be secretly developing an on-the-go financial transactions service aimed at owners of iOS devices.

Titled “A method for conducting a financial transaction,” it focuses on Apple’s previous iWallet patent claims, with one publication suggesting that Apple could now be one step closer to launching a mobile payments solution on iOS devices, uite possibly based on NFC technology, which stands for Near-Field Communications…

PatentlyApple points out that the iPhone maker at this stage has applied for too many iWallet-related patents for anyone to dismiss rumors of an Apple-branded mobile payments solution.

Such a service wouldn’t be without its pitfalls, the publication cautions:

If a significant financial transaction mistake were to ever surface due directly to Apple’s future iWallet, consumers could easily lose confidence in the iPhone in short order.

So there’s a lot of pressure on Apple to deliver a flawless experience like they have with so many facets and features found in today’s iDevices.

Be that as it may, “the iWallet is coming,” PatenlyApple opines, “we just have to have a little patience.”

Some of the stronger leads include Apple’s May 2012 acquisition of smart sensor maker AuthenTec for $356 million. It was speculated at the time Apple needed AuthenTec’s technology to bolster enterprise security on iOS devices.

However, the startup squashed those rumors by informing its existing clients to buy fingerprint sensors elsewhere shortly following the Apple deal. It then followed up by selling off its division which makes encryption-based security hardware and software.

Other tidbits suggest that upcoming iOS devices could actually gain NFC and fingerprint sensors from AuthenTec, possibly integrating a handy fingerprint sensor right under the Home button for strong personal security, a must if Apple is to throw its brand behind sensitive mobile financial transactions.

Listening to recent chatter from China, the upcoming iPhone 5S incorporates both NFC and fingerprint sensor. Theoretically speaking, these sensors could work in conjunction with a dedicated new app from Apple like the rumored iWallet software or even the existing Passbook solution.

Of course, Apple would need to shore up support for iWallet from industry players, including banks, credit card companies, merchants and all sorts of middlemen, all with various vested interests.

But should those rumors pan out, 2013 could be the year Apple mainstreams payments on the go. And with nearly half a billion iTunes accounts with credit cards enabled for 1-click purchasing, the Cupertino firm’s iWallet could easily become an overnight success.

The question is, would you trust iWallet with paying for your groceries?