Apple is “laying the groundwork” for a service that would enable iPhone users to purchase physical goods in shops, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal, but key details about the plans remain unclear.
Eddy Cue, the Apple exec in charge of iTunes and the App Store, has met with industry executives to discuss the company’s plans. And another experienced Apple employee Jennifer Bailey (pictured) has been moved into a new role to build up the payments business. Bailey’s current job title is vice president for online stores.
However there is no indication of what technology would be used by Apple devices for payments at the point-of-sale. Apple devices do not include NFC technology. Other possibilities include QR codes or a cloud-based solution. The company is working on a Bluetooth-based service called iBeacons but that is a location-based marketing service.
Earlier this month Apple did file a patent relating to mobile payments although it has made similar filings in the past.
It is also unclear what stage the company’s plans have reached. In April 2013, Tim Cook publicly described mobile payments as being “in its infancy”.
Apple’s strengths include the sheer number of credit card details it holds. It had 575 million registered users with its iTunes store, said the company last year.
In addition to online transactions via iTunes, Apple does currently enable users to make purchases by scanning the item with their handset and paying using a credit card linked to iTunes. However this service is only for smaller value items purchased in Apple’s own stores.
Any move into payments would have the support of activist shareholder Carl Icahn, who owns a stake in Apple and has been pushing the company to return more money to shareholders.
In a letter to Apple shareholders last week he urged the company to invest in mobile payments. “We believe a revolutionary payments solution is now a very real opportunity that the company could choose to pursue.”