Just in case you missed it ... The iPhone 5 has finally landed!! While the usual queues greeted the latest instalment of the world’s best loved smartphone, in mobile payment circles, all the talk is about what hasn’t been included rather than the array of
new features that have.
The decision to omit NFC capabilities by Tim Cook et al has surprised a number of industry watchers, many who truly felt Apple would use its latest launch to give the mobile payments sector the final big push it needs to go main stream.
However, it’s no surprise that Apple made the decision it did. The reality is that the mass adoption of mobile payments is still two to three years away, and with so many companies jostling for attention in this space it’s likely Apple will wait another
12 months before including NFC in iPhone technology.
The simple reason for this comes down to the fact that when the company rolls out NFC capabilities on its smartphones, it wants to do it properly – and at a time when its devoted customers see value in NFC and will apy to upgrade to a phone which has it.
The introduction of payment technology on the level that Apple will be required to carry out is a huge step and it needs to be integrated with its existing offers to have the maximum effect for the business and its customers. It’s going to be the strategy
of slow and steady from Apple’s point of view and we’ve already seen it take the first steps, with the inclusion of Passbook on its IOS 6 platform.
The Passbook is clearly a useful wallet container for storing tickets, coupons, and offers, and it’s highly possible that for the time being this is where Apple’s payments investment will be concentrated. Already, consumers are able to store airline tickets
and hotel bookings in this folder and its likely even more information and storage capability will follow in due course. What Apple does once this initial step is complete, however, will prove most interesting.
The company currently has over 400 million iTunes users and their credit or debit card information on file. This access to such a massive audience means that Apple is perfectly poised to integrate this with its Passbook facility.
When mobile payments become common place on its devices, it’s of upmost importance that Apple takes this information beyond a closed-loop mechanism and turns it into a truly useful, customer centric tool.
If Apple can solve this puzzle with the levels of innovation we have come to expect from them, it’s entirely feasible to see how consumers can use their iTunes account to pay for everyday goods and services beyond today’s media purchases - this would be
a true game changer for consumer payments.
While Apple’s approach has been rightfully cautious, it’s important to remember that many of their rivals have already started making ground in the mobile payments space, with Samsung especially, making headway in this area. In six months time it will be
telling to review sales of the iPhone 5 versus Samsung and Nokia’s NFC enabled phones. This will show whether consumers are ready to favour the convenience and practicalities of paying for goods with their mobile phone, or in fact, they are loyal to the Apple
brand and a great looking phone with the widest range of apps.