Apple may finally launch its long-rumoured ‘iWallet’ when it unveils new devices and services at an event in the U.S. on 9 September.
The U.S. company is tipped to launch a mobile payment service at the event, when it is also expected to unveil its latest iPhone smartphone, its first smart watch and a larger-screen iPad.
Sources told Bloomberg that Apple has lined up partnerships with credit card companies including Visa, MasterCard and American Express to launch a near-field communication (NFC)-based mobile payment service. The rumour links to reports last week that Apple has teamed with Netherlands-based NXP Semiconductors to use the latter’s NFC chips in Apple devices, so clearing the way for a mobile payment service.
The latest reports say Apple will offer a secure in-store payment service using the NFC chip and the biometric scanner found on the current generation iPhone to handle money transfer and security.
A U.S.-based analyst told Bloomberg that Apple’s move is as much about bringing more customers into its ecosystem as new hardware, while another industry expert noted the move will enable Apple to leverage credit card details provided by users of its iTunes service.
Apple’s entrance into the mobile payments market following at least two years of rumour and speculation on the subject could provide a welcome boost for the sector, which so far has failed to gain traction in developed markets. In emerging markets, largely SMS-based mobile financial services like Vodafone’s M-Pesa are widely used.
In the wearable sector, Apple is readying a companion smart watch for its iPhone smartphones, Bloomberg also reported. Analysts told the news agency the product won’t provide a huge boost for Apple’s balance sheet in the near term, despite predicting the unit could generate additional sales worth $9 billion (€6.8 billion).
The vendor may also opt to embed an NFC chip into its smart watch, to enable contactless payments without the need for the smartphone.
iPad developments seem set to be restricted to deploying a larger, 12.9-inch, screen version of the tablet that will be released in early 2015, according to Bloomberg.
Research company IHS Technology forecasts annual shipments of NFC-enabled mobile phones will grow from 275 million units in 2013 to 1.2 billion in 2018 – equivalent to 64% of total mobile phone shipments that year.
Rival company Gartner recently said that NFC is in a post-hype stage, and will become a productive technology in the next two years.