In mid-November, news broke that Apple was reportedly planning a mobile P2P payment service that would compete with the array of other players in the space who enable that service, including PayPal’s Venmo, Square Cash, Facebook Messenger and SnapCash, among others.
Now, more details have emerged in a patent filed in early December. What that patent shows is that Apple's P2P plans look to be beyond just payments through iMessage. The patent indicates that the company also intends to allow users to send money through phone calls, emails and even calendar invites.
These details were highlighted in a Quartz article, the first outlet to report on the new patent. What the site pointed out about the patent process is that many patents go into production and never actually turn into an actual product, but what this most recent patent does reveal is that Apple is getting serious about being in the payments messaging service.
Of course, Apple isn't the first to do so. There's also Facebook Messenger, which added payments to its service in March 2015. And just last month, a deal was inked between Facebook and Uber to allow payments between the apps — all through a service powered by PayPal's Braintree.
What’s not been discussed yet is how Apple's P2P payments service would actually take off. No one’s saying if Apple and banks have a deal worked out or at what stage talks have progressed. Those missing puzzle pieces would be how Apple would integrate the banks' existing infrastructure into the P2P service, how immediately those funds are available and how much it will cost.
What the infamous “sources close to the matter” have said, so far, is that the service would work very much like others do — consumers have options to send payments from their bank accounts to another person via Apple Pay. The service could launch in 2016. The banks reportedly involved in the talks with Apple about this service include JPMorgan Chase, Capital One, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bancorp.
As mentioned above, Apple’s potential move into the P2P space comes at a time when the space is heating up with Silicon Valley neighbors also wanting their part of the trend. Google, Square and Facebook also offer P2P payments, and Venmo has grown quickly. PayPal’s most recent figures about Venmo showed that users made $2.1 billion in mobile payments via the service in its third quarter, more than double the $700 million the year prior.
For now, Quartz's report on the patent shows that the iMessage app would be the primary way to pay a contact, via a text message, but then other images in the patent show that the P2P payment service would enable users to send payments to multiple people at once. It also has options to specify when, how and how much to send.
Apple hasn't officially commented publicly on the patent. It does reference, as possible payment methods, “phone call, text messaging conversations, an email thread, calendar events."