We`ve written a lot lately about mobile wallets, wireless payments, and the possible extinction of cash and even credit cards, but it turns out that Apple, the world`s best-loved tech company, may have been quietly holding the trump card all this time.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for any mobile payment platform is the initial task of getting people to input their account information into the program. Sure, it only takes a few minutes, but who wants to type out all those numbers? With sixteen digits in each credit card number plus billing address, shipping address, date of birth, last four digits of your Social Security number, your mother`s maiden name and a unique username and password required for each platform and each credit card, the process can get pretty tiresome – especially when you`re typing it out on a tiny smartphone screen.
Now some say that Apple may already have the solution to the problem – and they`ve been sitting on it for years.
According to an article by Nick Bilton of the New York Times, this week`s Apple Worldwide Development Conference kicked off on Monday with a keynote address from Apple CEO Timothy Cook, in which he shared some very interesting numbers. In the process of talking about the Apple iTunes Store, Cook revealed that there are 400 million active iTunes accounts – which means that every Apple device is already linked with a credit card. 400 million credit cards, already linked up with mobile devices.
You don`t have to be a Steve Jobs-level genius to realize that`s a pretty powerful point from which Apple could leverage the entire mobile payments industry.
How is it that Apple has access to all these credit card accounts? Simple – in order to activate any iPod, iPhone, iPad, or other iOS device (iOS is the Apple operating system), you must have an iTunes account. In order to create an iTunes account, you must input a credit card and create a unique username and password.
The Way of the Future
Have you been in an Apple retail store lately? If you have, you might know that you no longer have to wait to check out at the cashier`s station. In fact, you don`t have to talk to a cashier at all – if you have your iOS mobile device that is.
Just find what you want to buy – that screen protector or cool new iPhone case – open up your Apple Store app on your mobile device, scan the barcode, and you`re done. You can stash your new purchase in your bag without showing it to an employee or even speaking to a cashier. All you need to prove that you purchased the item is the receipt – which will have been emailed to you and can be easily pulled up on your iPhone/iPod/iPad if anyone asks to see it.
Just imagine having that kind of experience anywhere you go, in any store. Seem unlikely? Think again – Apple is more than halfway there already, if they want to be.
The Apple of our Eyes
Apple hasn`t said anything about creating a mobile payments app – yet. The Times` Bilton says, however, that because of certain patents they hold, it`s likely that they will enter the mobile payments game in the near future. With the level of trust and loyalty that Apple users already show to the company, it`s a good bet that they could crush the competition, Facebook vs. MySpace-style.