Apple: Payments? Isn’t There An App For That?

Once again, Apple has disappointed those theorizing this is the year the maker of iPhones and iPads launches its own payment scheme. Discussions at the opening of the company’s WWDC made no mention of hardware changes, and the likelihood of a payments scheme appears not to be in Apple’s immediate future.

For Apple followers, today was just like any other day of heightened anticipation that an Apple-based payments scheme is in the works: It was a disappointment.

During the keynote portion of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference on June 2, Apple executives made no mention of Apple preparing for an entry into the payments space. It also didn’t go into any hardware-based initiatives, so Near Field Communication aficionados will have to wait yet another day (or year, or decade) for Apple to support that technology.

Seems Apple is satisfied letting the potential access to its 800 million iTunes accounts work in other, unknown ways. But what are they?

Apple instead appears to be letting application developers take the reins on payment, such as through their own apps that support QR codes or some other software-based solution for facilitating payment. Of course, it was a developers conference, so software is the show’s main theme.

During the keynote presentation, Apple’s representatives made no direct mention of payments, other than in the context of a new Family Sharing app in the upcoming iOS 8 release that would automatically prompt parents to approve new-app or in-game purchases made with a common credit card tied to the Apple Store used among family members.

Perhaps purposely cryptic, Craig Federighi, Apple’s exec who introduced the company’s new Yosemite OS X Mac and OS 8 mobile operating systems, mentioned simply in passing that Apple will open access to TouchID to third-party developers. He made no mention of examples, as he did with certain gaming and photo-imaging improvements in iOS 8. Today, TouchID is usable only to access iTunes and the Apple Store.

It’s likely that Apple wants to let developers, or the companies they represent, decide whether the security behind TouchID is satisfactory for their needs. As noted in a recent report, banks and payments providers should think twice about supporting the biometric functionality for security access to their apps. It’s simply not yet secure enough.

However, TouchID might provide a satisfactory layer when used with other authentication and authorization methods to improve user-friendliness. Auto-fill programs for online merchants are helping to overcome problems with abandoned shopping carts. Perhaps an app developer now could apply auto-fill to TouchID to simplify that process, and then let existing encryption and tokenization systems handle the security stuff. Just a thought.

As Market Platform Dynamics CEO Karen Webster noted in her June 2 commentary, Apple’s developer conferences always get enthusiasts believing this is the year Apple opens up its payments playbook.

As what is now common among long-time Chicago Cubs fans, the cry “wait ‘til next year” has become an annual decree as well for supporters of an Apple-based payments system.

Certainly they won’t have to wait more than 100 years though before Apple launches a payment scheme, right? Or will they?