Apple is fine-tuning its mobile purchasing capabilities, adding parental controls and voice commands to digital content purchases and extending its TouchID fingerprint authentication system to third-party developers.
The company did not reveal a full mobile wallet in the keynote presentation at its 25th annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, but it provided a number of updates on its existing mechanisms for mobile commerce and authentication.
The "Family Sharing" feature of the upcoming iOS 8 mobile operating system lets users share a credit card account among up to six family members, allowing them to also share content purchases across devices. If a child is making the purchase, a parent will be prompted on his or her Apple device before the sale goes through, said Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, during the June 2 presentation.
Apple is also opening its TouchID system to third-party developers. The fingerprint authentication system is already used to approve iTunes and App store purchases, but has not previously been accessible to other companies. Samsung's competing Galaxy S5 has not been as restrictive with its fingerprint reader, and PayPal used this feature to offer fingerprint authentication within its own app.
Apple will also enable its Siri voice-controlled digital assistant to make purchases from the iTunes store, Federighi said. This feature pairs with a song-recognition program, enabling users to identify a song they hear and purchase it through Siri.
The upcoming addition of Family Sharing could help Apple avoid a repeat of its past problems with digital content purchases. Apple used to allow iPhone owners to make multiple purchases within a limited window of time after typing a password just once. This led to the unintended consequence of kids spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars within recently purchased games without being prompted for a password parents didn't find out about these purchases until they got the bill.
At the start of this year, Apple agreed to refund $32 million to consumers after reaching a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.
The Cupertino, Calif., company's presentation focused only on software, omitting any mention of new hardware (such as Near Field Communication) in its next iPhone. The company is rumored to be developing an NFC iPhone for a payments partnership with China UnionPay. Apple is also reportedly talking to retailers about establishing a new payment system in retail stores.
Apple CEO Tim Cook and Federighi used the keynote to update developers on the upcoming OSX 10 Yosemite operating system for desktop computers and the iOS 8 system for mobile devices. The new iOS 8 system is available in beta for developers starting June 2, and will be released to consumers in the fall, Federighi said.
At least year's event, Apple executives spoke about iCloud Keychain, a method for sharing encrypted passwords and payment card data across Apple devices. The keychain could be a security element in any type of mobile wallet Apple may eventually develop.