Tim Cook: mobile payments ‘one of the thoughts behind Touch ID’

Touch ID success

Apple just finished up its quarterly earnings call a few hours ago where it offered up sales numbers for the holiday quarter, forecasts for next quarter, and everything in between. Tim Cook even fielded some questions from overly-eager analysts.

While most of these questions were fairly dull, there were a handful of them worth noting, including one about Apple’s plans for the mobile payment space. Obviously Cook wouldn’t answer the query directly, but his response was rather interesting…

Cook explained that the Cupertino company is “intrigued” by the mobile payments space, which is still very much in its infancy, and noted that its interest there was one of the driving reasons behind it creating the Touch ID sensor for the iPhone 5s.

Here’s the full question and response:

Q: Can you talk a bit more about opportunities in the mobile payment market. Maybe talk about what you’re seeing with regard to use of the touch sensor for mobile payments in your iTunes Store, and then how you sort of think about this as an opportunity.”

A: Let me sort of avoid the last part of the question. But in general, we’re seeing that people love being able to buy content—whether it’s music or movies or books, from their iPhone using Touch ID. It’s incredibly simple and easy, and elegant, and it’s clear that there’s a lot of opportunity there.

The mobile payments area in general is one that we’ve been intrigued with. That was one of the thoughts behind Touch ID, but we’re not limiting ourselves just to that. So I don’t have anything specific to announce today. But 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.”

Cook’s comment about Apple being “intrigued” with the mobile payments space comes just days after The Journal reported that Eddy Cue has been discussing the company’s interest in handling payments for goods and services with industry executives.

With its 100s of millions of iTunes accounts, Apple has one of the largest credit card banks in the world. And pundits are expecting it to leverage that, and Passbook, and Touch ID, and its new iBeacon tech at some point with a new mobile payments service.