With anticipation building for next weeks Apple special event and what CEO Tim Cook will announce, it is a fun time to dig into the rumors and speculate about what could be coming to a pocket, wrist or desktop near you and, more importantly, what this may mean to the market ecosystems we all exist in today.
First lets tackle the hardware, a new iPhone 6? Or perhaps an iWatch to compete in the smart watch market? I think almost everyone expects the 6 to be unveiled with whispers simmering about the watch.
If the watch and phone are both announced, you could be looking at a scenario where some of the NFC rumors we have seen of late could have broader use if enabled with the watch. A swipe at your wrist to make a payment at a point of sale could make the burden of reaching into your pocket (to fish out your phone or wallet) a thing of the past. I am joking on the less-than-minimal labor involved in either situation, but still there have been times where having my hands free during this situation would have been nice.
Look past the device gossip, let's tackle mobile payment rumors. A lot has been made that iTunes today already has 800 million accounts on file, and I have been in the camp that suggests its a big deal.
From a mobile payments perspective, that number is a huge opportunity for Apple to jump right into the market. Given the rumors around agreements with American Express, Visa and MasterCard, plus the buzz around iPhone 6, the idea of an iWallet announcement (or an expansion of Apples existing Passbook) seems logical.
So what would an iWallet or equivalent mean to the marketplace? As many folks correctly point out, mobile payment usage is low today, despite NFC-enabled devices and many mobile wallets available in the market. But usage is growing, and paired with an uplift of POS terminals that must happen (due to the pending EMV liability shift and willingness from disruptor companies like Square and PayPal to quickly launch new products), we could be looking at the brink of the mobile payments tipping point.
2015 is shaping up to be the year of mobile payments, and if Apple enters the fray, I am going to surmise that they saw the shift coming, just like they did with the MP3 player, smartphone and tablet device. In each case, they weren't the first to the market, but they grabbed a hold of the opportunity just before the meteoric take-off. Looks to me like they are positioning themselves for a similar experience...will you be along for the ride?
Mark Ranta is senior solutions consultant at ACI Worldwide.