Apple Pay Usage Vague, But Merchant Acceptance Mounts

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Apple executives didn’t flaunt Apple Pay transaction numbers or Apple Watch sales figures during a July 21 third-quarter earnings call, but they did provide some measure of merchant acceptance of the growing mobile payment system.

Three months ago, Apple indicated it had 700,000 Apple Pay acceptance locations. During its earnings call, the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant said it would more than double that figure in the next five months.

“We’re on track for Apple Pay acceptance at over 1.5 million U.S. locations by the end of 2015,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said.

Fueling that growth are the 700 colleges and universities in the U.S. that will support Apple Pay during the coming school year, Cook added.

With transaction figures and consumer uptake of Apple Pay and the payment-capable Apple Watch remaining sketchy at best, Apple has instead emphasized its growing bank support, technology and merchant acceptance. Cook estimated that Apple Pay is adding 80,000 small and medium-sized merchant acceptance locations each month.

The rival Google Wallet, which runs on Android handsets, struggled to win over many of these audiences at its launch, as did the telco-backed Softcard Wallet. Google Wallet will soon make way for its successor, Android Pay, benefiting from the assets Google acquired from Softcard upon that wallet's failure.

Apple is expecting another boost for its mobile wallet by helping Square promote its upcoming Near Field Communication reader for small merchants.

American Express is also adding Apple Pay to its corporate card portfolio, Cook added.

Apple did not provide fresh information about the Apple Pay launch in the U.K., which is still in its early weeks.

As for Apple Watch, Cook only touted consumer feedback as “incredibly positive” and that it would be available in 19 countries, with more added in the near future.

Even though iPhone sales fell 22% to 47.5 million from 61.2 million in the second quarter, the company's flagship smartphone generated a quarterly sales record at $31.4 billion. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, introduced last year, are the only iPhone models Apple has built with NFC capabilities.

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