Apple reportedly going slow on integrated mobile payments

Even though Apple recently showed off Passbook as part of iOS 6, they'll reportedly be taking a slower, steadier approach to integrating system-wide mobile payments. According to a lengthy article on The Wall Street Journal, NFC and retail transactional systems have been explored, but aren't imminent.

Holding back in mobile payments was a deliberate strategy, the result of deep discussion last year. Some Apple engineers argued for a more-aggressive approach that would integrate payments more directly. But Apple executives chose the go-slow approach for now. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on the decision-making process. Apple's head of world-wide marketing, Phil Schiller, in an interview last month, said that digital-wallet mobile-payment services are "all fighting over their piece of the pie, and we aren't doing that."

Passbook isn't written in stone, however. Apple typically builds technology and API (application programming interfaces) in abstracted enough manners that newer, more advanced systems can fold in over older systems. Just like 3G was added to existing location services like Wi-Fi mapping and cell tower triangulation. If NFC/RFID hardware is included in a future iPhone, it's not hard to imagine the user-facing aspects slotting elegantly into the Passbook app and Pass Kit APIs, not to mention iTunes transactional system.

iOS already has many applications that can handle mobile payments on the iPhone -- everything from Starbucks to Paypal to Square. Passbook will already aggregate a lot of existing mobile payment and mobile commerce content, and make it more easily and more highly available.

Whether Apple expands to full, system-wide transactional support in the future remains to be seen. Given adoption rates today, slow and steady could well win the mobile payment race.

Source: The Wall Street Journal