The prospect of using a cellphone to pay for your goods or services has been up in the air for a while in the United States. While you can do it in some places (Japan), the US certainly is never the most able to adopt technologies that revolve around the transfer of money. Who knows what the reason is, but Apple is incredibly interested in making this a possibility, detailing a plethora of possible NFC (near field communications) interactions. Apple wants to make your iPhone your credit card. It also wouldn’t mind writing checks or earning a spot as your casual debit card, while also being able to accept those same forms of payment. If you’ve ever wanted to easily split a check between you and five friends at a restaurant (something that is a hassle with cards), Apple wants to make this easy. And you know if Apple wants to use the iPhone as your personal money stash, they’re going to be accessing iTunes to handle all the transaction info. In all honesty, this is kinda scary (yet cool!) at the same time.
Apple realizes that it has millions of credit and debit cards already on file with iTunes users. If I wanted to buy some stuff at Target, I’d just charge my iPhone, and that money would come directly out of iTunes (from my card for example). Suddenly, iTunes becomes your central payment system for everything - imagine getting your bank statement and everything on it reads, “Apple iTunes.” That’s a scary thought. And of course Apple will have some fee or tax tacked on somewhere so they can rake in some serious moola.
Back to the matter at hand, Patently Apple reports:
“The iPhone may integrate several functionalities for performing peer-to-peer transactions, including the storing information representation a user’s payment accounts and crediting accounts, acquiring and sending payment information, and obtaining payment authorization.
One or more input devices, such as a camera or near field communication (NFC) device may be provided for the acquisition of payment information. For example, the NFC device may be used to initiate an NFC connection with an external device for acquiring or sending payment information data. Additionally, the camera device may be utilized in cooperation with an image processing application to extract payment information data from an image of a payment instrument provided by a payor.”
Patently Apple has done an excellent job detailing everything Apple is planning with Transaction, covering everything from how users will input data, to how data is shared with vendors, how credit cards and checks could handled, etc. It’s probably this year’s most detailed patent, and you’ll want to check out the whole thing via Part 1 and Part 2 of Patently Apple’s e-wallet coverage.