Starbucks introduced new iPhone apps this week, one of which enables you to pay for your coffee using your Apple device. Sure, this is early days, and sure, the system’s only being tested in 16 locations in the US, but it is a step in the direction.
At the beginning of the video, the reporter is asked, “so, why pay for your coffee with your iPhone,” to which he responds, “because the iPhone is cool”. C’mon, there’s a better reason: you can protect your iPhone with a PIN access code, so if you lose it or it is stolen, a miscreant will have to figure out how to break that code…
Now, we know there’s ways to do this, but it will take any miscreant time. That’s precious time in which you can get to a computer (Mac or PC) in a local office, friend’s place or internet cafe, log onto your .Mac account and wipe the phone. You don’t need to wait for the bank to cancel your credit or payment card and propagate that information. You can kill fraud on your account faster on your own.
We know this is the tip of the iceberg, we know there’s been moves – for years – to nurture some kind of a cashless society. Ignoring the political meanings of that (someone somewhere profits in some way by you not carrying cash, think, for example, of the impact on grey market economies and taxation), but once systems like this become established on mobile platforms, that notion will become more possible.
Rest assured Apple’s already considering this idea. After all, it already holds the account details of 100 million iTunes customers, as Apple CEO Steve Jobs observed earlier this month.
Tie those accounts up to payment processing systems and 100 million people would feasibly be able to use their iPhone (or iPod touch) to pay for goods and services at any participating outlet.
And in case Apple doesn’t intend becoming a bank, there’s a hubbub of activity around the concept of bringing payment systems to the platform. Banks, retailers (such as Starbucks) and sundry development companies are attempting to pull together an elegant – and secure -system for such transactions.
Even Apple’s iFund partners are interested in this evolution. Representatives from the venture capital fund handling the $100 million iPhone developer ‘iFund’, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, took a look at yet another such solution, which is being developed by Billing Solutions last year.
Working in the other direction, various apps already exist which enable retailers to use their iPhone to take credit card payments.