When will Apple take mobile payments seriously?

David Murphy

With last week's launch of its latest handsets, Michael Rolph, CEO and founder of Yoyo, questions Apple's commitment to mobile payments.

There's no doubting Apple's pioneering position when it comes to mobile innovation and user experience - its user adoption and brand strength, not to mention its unbelievable revenue numbers, all attest to the awesome power of Apple.

And last week marked the latest chapter in its domination, with three new iPhone models - the iPhone XS, the iPhone XS Max, and the “affordable” iPhone XR. All three offer some cosmetic updates on last year’s jolt that was the buttonless iPhone X, with the usual set of entertaining tricks and conveniences.

But there were a couple of stumbling blocks at the launch. For instance, while we heard that Face ID had been upgraded to make facial unlocking more secure, it looks like we really are saying goodbye to Touch ID.

There were some expectations that Touch ID would be reintroduced by embedding the functionality onto the iPhone screen, but alas no. While Face ID has been a great success in terms of authentication, not giving your customers an option, even when your competitors are, is a wrong move.

A bigger issue was Apple’s complete silence on its payments offering this year. 11 years after the first iPhone, and four years on since Apple declared that the iPhone would replace the wallet, we have to ask: when is Apple going to take payments seriously?

Customer experience
As a company that prides itself on advancing the customer experience, Apple Pay has thus far proven to be a damp squib. The original feature simply transported the contactless card experience to an iPhone, and this year’s models offer no improvement on Apple’s initial payments strategy. And let’s not forget that the UK still has yet to be introduced to its peer-to-peer payments service, Apple Pay Cash - nearly a year after it was launched in the US.

Customers seem similarly unimpressed, with predictions that Apple Pay’s 2018 transaction volume will be outstripped in the US by Starbucks’ own payment and loyalty app. Given the differing reach between the retailer-specific coffee app and the virtually ubiquitous mobile payments system, this should set off warning lights for Apple’s CEO Tim Cook.

A successful payments strategy lies in providing the customer and the retailer with a positive experience that goes beyond payment. The highly lucrative worlds of loyalty, budgeting and personalised marketing all sit within reach - yet Apple isn’t there yet - and for a company of its gigantic size and influence, it should be.

So of course Apple made it sound like a lot has been going on this year. In truth however, it’s been somewhat low key - both in terms of new functionality and the PR activity around its big September event. Let’s hope that by this time next year Apple will have placed its payments strategy back on the agenda.