Apple CEO Tim Cook actually discussed mobile payments directly on the company’s earnings call today, saying that it’s an area that has “intrigued” the company and that mobile payments actually figured in the company’s thinking around Touch ID.
There’s been a considerable amount of discussion around Apple’s potential exploration of the mobile payments space recently, after the Wall Street Journal reported that Cupertino was exploring payment tech and the ability to use iOS devices to buy physical goods. Cook noted that customers have responded positively to being able to buy digital goods including music, movies and apps via Touch ID, and suggested that there’s potential for use of the fingerprint-scanning tech in other kinds of commerce, too.
Apple has also filed a patent recently for a “touchless” payment system that uses a “secure element” on the iPhone to store and protect payment information. Apple already employs just such a cordoned area on its current system-on-a-chip to keep fingerprint data private, and it’s entirely plausible that it could be paired up with a physical payments system given its current use.
Of course, being able to pay with a thumb press at retail stores is a tantalizing possibility, but even just the admission that this is an area Apple is actively exploring is plenty exciting enough. The company has well over 600 million credit cards on file, at least according to the best guesses from analysts, so it’s hard to understate the potential upside for Apple should it start competing with the likes of PayPal.