It seems Apple is once again flirting with the idea of building its own P2P money transfer service.
New reports indicate that Apple is in discussion with various payments industry players about the possibility of launching its own Venmo/Zelle competitor in the space that would make it easier for iPhone users to send money between themselves.
According to one unnamed source, the service could launch as early as this year — while a different, still-unnamed source indicates that launch data has not been set.
This is not the first time this story has made the rounds — similar talks were reportedly had with banks in 2015, but never came to anything (possibly because banks at the time were already evolving toward Zelle, the banking industry's already-launched answer to Venmo).
Apart from Venmo and Zelle — if launched — Apple would also find itself in competition with the likes of Square Cash, Chase's Quick Pay and Facebook Messenger's P2P offerings.
PayPal-owned Venmo, it should be noted, remains the 800 lb. gorilla in the space — with a registered $17.6 billion in volume and still doubling year over year.
These services are difficult to monetize but are seen as a vital gateway, particularly to valuable millennial consumers.
Apple has also recently held discussions with Visa about creating its own pre-paid cards that would run on the Visa debit network and which would be tied to the new peer-to-peer service — though Apple and Visa have declined to comment.
The idea of Apple developing a card, however, has not exactly thrilled issuers who are paying Apple a tiny toll every time one of their cards is used in the Apple Pay digital wallet.
“Banks spent heavily in ensuring their cards were top-of-wallet when they all built and rolled out Apple Pay,” said Cherian Abraham, a digital payments executive at Experian. “So it’s justifiable to be concerned that Apple will have its own card and could potentially be top-of-wallet. If you are top-of-wallet, you are top-of-mind.”
It’s unclear whether pushback from the banks could pressure Visa into not working with Apple on the initiative, or what that might mean.
However, just because Apple rolls out a pre-paid card, doesn't mean that people who already have cards they like are just going to switch (Apple Pay has shown that isn't a realistic expectation already).