A possible sign it may develop its own mobile wallet program, Apple has filed another patent for a program that utilizes near-field communications.
One of the best-known names in cellphones and computers recently filed another patent that may hint at its plans for producing a mobile wallet program.
Apple has been known to submit a wide range of patents for a number of products, but its latest has piqued some interest in the banking community because of the way in which it might affect the company's plans for a mobile wallet program, according to a report from American Banker. The new patent is for a program that uses near-field communications technology in conjunction with a shopping application.
While the technology could theoretically only be used to scan items and create shopping lists, it might also hint that Apple is planning to make its iPhone capable of handling mobile wallet transactions in the near future, the report said. Already, it has a number of patents for apps that could be used in similar ways, such as its Passbook program that stores credit card information on the phone, and a newer app known as iTravel, which can be used to buy and store airline tickets, as well as expedite the check-in and boarding processes.
However, analysts note that just because Apple files a patent for something, it might not include the technology in its next iPhone, which is expected to be unveiled at some point in September, the report said. As recently as last month, an expert told the Wall Street Journal that the tech giant was willing to wait until a specific type of mobile payment technology became popular before it would enter the marketplace at all. Many were also disappointed when the previous iteration of the iPhone - the 4S - came out without any sort of NFC technology embedded in it.
"Apple is establishing some unique NFC facets for its future deployment, but also protecting themselves with patents so they don't get sued when it is time to roll it out," Todd Ablowitz, president of the Double Diamond Group, told the news site. "I could see [the decision to use or delay NFC in the next iPhone] going either way, and either way is viable."
But some note that Apple might not want to wait too long to implement whatever strategy it has, the report said. Potential competitors in many mobile payment spheres are ramping up operations considerably. Google recently broadened its Wallet program, and Pay With Square will now be used in thousands of Starbucks coffee shops nationwide.
It's believed that mobile payments will be worth tens of millions of dollars annually within the next few years, regardless of what available method the public eventually adopts. It's generally agreed that the two largest hurdles to widespread adoption are the lack of available technology - which is being remediated quickly - and concerns over the security of these accounts. Experts believe both problems will solve themselves over time.