Is Apple Looking To Enter The Micro-Lending Space?

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3:11 PM EST February 1st, 2013

It seems as though Apple has a patent for just about everything you can imagine, but one of their most recent patent revelations could have a major impact on the payments industry.

According to a TechCrunch report, the USPTO on Thursday published an Apple patent application for a mobile banking concept that could in many ways turn iTunes into a micro-lending platform. It’s a simple yet incredibly powerful idea given iTunes’ relevance, and the outline for how it would work is pretty interesting. 

According to the patent, users would post requests for small amounts of cash using their iPhone, which other nearby users can choose to respond to. If the consumer with cash chooses to do so, he can give the physical money to the party in need and then receive the full amount from an account, which TechCrunch speculates could be linked to or could simply be iTunes. The person receiving the cash would have his or her account debited the amount they received, plus a small service fee. This fee could be split between Apple and the cash supplier, which would give others more incentive to hand out cash.

There are some obvious security issues that come to mind here, and I’m not sure how appealing the idea of acknowledging to a complete stranger that you have cash on you is. But this can be somewhat mitigated by the amount of cash requested – say, perhaps a $50 limit – and also by where and when a person claims they need cash. It’s also easy to speculate that this system could be of limited utility in major metropolitan areas, where ATMs await at every street corner.

It’s still a wildly fascinating idea though, and it’s easy to see where Apple could bring in partners to serve as the payments account rather than use iTunes as well. The patent was originally filed in July of 2011, so it’s clear this has been in Apple’s plans for a while.

What do you think? Would you use a service like this if you needed cash? In which scenarios can you envision this being most useful? Let us know in the comments below!

Read more about Apple’s patent application here.

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