A punditry consensus has been forming for some time that Apple of California is planning on entering the mobile payment space with a service of its own. Conventional wisdom has it that such a product would tap into more than half a billion iTunes accounts with credit cards on file.
In between Apple’s purchase of smart sensor maker AuthenTec and the company’s iWallet shopping app patent, Apple has done little to indicate that a branded mobile payment solution is in the works, until today.
An Apple job listing now indicates in black and white that Apple’s management is in the process of hiring experts who will “help build a next-generation payment platform” to help its retail “enter new markets”…
A job listing discovered on Apple’s website by Jordan Kahn of 9to5Mac advertises, among others, for a Payments Software Engineer who will work on a payment platform comprised of payment devices, middleware and acquirers that will “push the boundaries in new markets for Apple Retail”.
As a Payments Software Engineer on our team, you will help build a next generation payment platform that will push the boundaries in new markets for Apple Retail. You will also be responsible for integrating payment devices, middleware and acquirers into our retail solution.
You will be working with business partners, store personnel, banking partners and cross-functional teams within Apple to develop software, controls and processes for payment processing.
Ideal candidates will be tasked with working with global payment solutions in the retail industry, including hands-on experience on devices, protocols and processes and learning from the collective experience of “a team of very knowledgeable payment experts”.
Apple is seeking experts in eCommerce, retail, banking and card industries who must know their way around payment technologies payment like EFTPOS, Interac, ADVT, M-TIP, AEIPS, bank messaging specifications and solutions used by credit card giants Visa, Mastercard and others.
Apple hasn’t (yet) made mobile payment acquisitions, but I wouldn’t entirely rule out the possibility of buying such established names as Square or PayPal.
PayPal’s recently iOS 7-ified mobile app.
An Apple-branded mobile payment solution is a question of ‘when’, not ‘if’.
Unlike other incumbents, Apple is best poised to innovate in this space.
Apple already has 500+ million iTunes accounts – that’s a huge installed base of people who trust the company with their credit card numbers enabled for one-click shopping. More importantly, the latest iPhone and iPad devices come with the Apple-designed A7 processor that includes something called Secure Enclave.
This is where Apple keeps your fingerprint profile safe from the rest of the system.
As such, Secure Enclave should go a long way toward securing your payment information tokens. As an added layer of security, the system could authorize payments by identifying you via an iWatch, said to include biometric sensors.
Another key piece of the puzzle: Apple with iOS 7 introduced iCloud Keychain, a new password-syncing feature which now lets you add credit cards to your account, have that information synced across iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Mac devices and use Safari to auto-fill this data on shopping websites.
I’m just speculating here, but it seems to me that Bluetooth 4.0 and iOS 7 iBeacon technologies could be a nice fit for iWallet as well. U.S. retailers which are installing iBeacon transmitters as we speak will be able to lure iPhone owners walking around the store with wireless promotions being shown right on their devices.
Last but not least, it’s worth underscoring that Apple’s sleek Apple Store app (pictured below), a free download for the iPhone and iPad, already lets customers make product purchases. Coupling it with Touch ID should be trivial.
Furthermore, Apple Store employees for years have been using custom-built iPod touch devices with integrated battery packs and credit card readers to process in-store orders wirelessly. Theoretically speaking, Apple could test a full-on mobile payment system with its own retail stores first before rolling it out nationwide in co-operation and support from participating retailers.
You can now unlock your iPhone 5s and approve iTunes purchase with your print and don’t you doubt for a second that soon you’ll be able to pay for your groceries seamlessly with your fingerprint, with the amount owed charged directly to your iTunes credit card on file.
The potential is huge: a three percent commission on mobile payments made via iOS devices could quickly add up to billions in additional revenue.