All indications are that Apple Pay is pulling its weight for Apple Inc., which reported a record-breaking quarter at $78.4 billion in revenue during a first-fiscal quarter 2017 earnings call Jan. 31.

However, as has been practice during these presentations to investors and analysts, Apple CEO Tim Cook expressed optimism in the mobile pay system, but reported only generalities about its growth.

"Apple Pay continued its strong momentum, with the number of users tripling over the past year and hundreds of millions of transactions and billions of dollars in purchases in the December quarter alone," Cook said.

Image: Bloomberg News
Image: Bloomberg News

That type of surge correlates to transaction volume being up more than 500% from the previous year, as Apple Pay moved into four new markets — Japan, Russia, New Zealand and Spain. Apple Pay is now available in 13 markets, Cook said.

The recent advancement in Apple Pay being available as a payment option on the web through Safari browser has netted nearly two million small businesses accepting invoice payments with Apple Pay through Intuit Quickbooks and other billing partners, Cook added. Apple also revealed three months ago that Touch ID and Apple Pay would be available on the new MacBook keyboard.

Beginning this quarter, Comcast cable and digital TV customers can begin paying their monthly bills "with a single touch with Apple Pay," Cook said.

The bullish numbers on Apple Pay could get another potential boost this quarter after Square Inc. said this week it would give its merchants an incentive to accept Apple Pay payment for a limited time, offering to process those transactions with no fees attached after the merchant set up its Apple Pay reader and provided signage that the mobile option was accepted.

That development was not discussed during the conference call, but it further establishes the friendly relationship between Square and Apple. The Apple Store was one of the first retailers to sell the Square mobile card readers four years ago, while Square was one of the first processors to sell mobile Apple Pay readers last year.

It also falls in line with Square's strategy to push chip-card and mobile payment acceptance to its customers after bundling Near Field Communication and EMV chip acceptance into one solution, said Richard Oglesby, president of AZ Payments Group and a senior analyst at Double Diamond Payments Research.

It does not hurt Apple to be more closely associated with an acquirer having some success in getting merchants boarded on the new technology.

"Compared with other merchant acquirers, this strategy has been hugely successful with Square," said Oglesby, who added Square has distributed more than one million chip-card acceptance solutions to its merchants.

It's a mutually beneficial partnership because Square is "likely being compensated to some degree by Apple" and Apple will see more Apple Pay transaction volume, Oglesby said.

Apple Pay also receives a boost in the company's general success with the sale of new iPhone 7 models, which carry the mobile pay system. Apple reported 78.3 million iPhones were sold during the quarter, an all-time high for a quarter and an increase of 5% over the previous year.

It remains difficult to determine exactly how Apple Pay is performing, as it is lumped into the company's services revenue category. Executives noted the services category had significant gains at $7.2 billion in revenue for the quarter fueled through $3 billion in purchases in the App Store and gains in subscriptions to Apple Music.

But Apple Pay figures to experience improvements and advancements as smartphones and the Apple Watch, which also allows Apple Pay payments, continue to evolve.

"Smartphone is in the early innings of the game, and there is a lot more to do," Cook said. "It has become more important to people's lives every year and there are more things people are doing with it. But the use of it in enterprise is growing significantly, and I feel really good about it."

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