Yesterday, Apple officially announced a new Tap to Pay on iPhone feature. This feature turns your iPhone into a contactless payment terminal – the initial implementation of this capability will target businesses, with Apple making new tools available to developers so companies like Stripe can integrate Tap to Pay into merchant applications.

But could this feature also hint at something Apple could add to the iPhone for peer-to-peer payments on a system-level with iOS 16? It certainly seems plausible…

As Matt Birchler pointed out to me on Twitter yesterday, there are numerous reasons why Apple might have opted to launch Tap to Pay for businesses exclusively as an SDK for third-parties. When it comes to businesses accepting payments, there are a number of complex factors to consider, including inventory management, taxes, and more.

But that’s not to say that Apple couldn’t take the same Tap to Pay technology and implement it natively into iOS for peer-to-peer payments. In fact, there are a number of different reasons why it would make sense for Apple to expand Tap to Pay to support peer-to-peer payments, and why it would be beneficial for users.

Peer-to-peer contactless payments in iOS 16?

In an ideal world, everyone could just use Apple Cash for sending peer-to-peer payments without a third-party app. Unfortunately, that’s not reality. Apple Pay Cash is only supported within the Apple ecosystem (and only in the United States for the time being). This means that if you as an iPhone user want to send or receive a payment from an Android user, you’ll need to use a third-party application like Venmo, Cash App, or Zelle.

How to set up Apple Cash Family iOS 14 watchOS 7

If iOS 16 were to expand Apple Cash with a system-level integration of Tap to Pay, this would allow iPhone users everywhere to accept contactless payments for peer-to-peer transactions. Need to split the bill at dinner with an Android user? Simply fire up the Wallet app on your iPhone and your iPhone could accept a contactless payment payment, whether the Android user wanted to pay via Samsung Pay, Android Pay, or even a contactless credit or debit card.

This could all be enabled by the new Tap to Pay feature announced by Apple this week. This feature simply uses the NFC chip inside the iPhone XS and later to turn iPhones into contactless payment terminals akin to what you find at many retailers nowadays.

We’re still waiting on more details on how the SDKs announced by Apple this week will be supported – it could be that a company like Venmo could integrate Tap to Pay into their existing app for contactless peer-to-peer payments. Even if this does turn out to be the case, it would still be useful for Apple users to have a similar function integrated into the Wallet app natively with iOS 16.

Finally, there’s growing precedent for Apple announcing a feature for third-parties, and then announcing its own first-party implementation. On April 7 last year, Apple announced that it was opening the Find My network to third-party products. Three weeks later, it officially unveiled AirTag as its own first-party item tracker with the same level of Find My integration.

Apple is likely to hold its annual WWDC in June, at which it will unveil iOS 16, and its next round of software updates for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and more. This is when we’d expect Apple to announce its own implementation of Tap to Pay.

What do you think about this week’s Tap to Pay announcement for the iPhone? Could we eventually see such a feature come to Apple Cash for peer-to-peer payments? If such a feature did indeed launch with iOS 16, would you use it? Let us know down in the comments!

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About the Author

Chance Miller

Chance is an editor for the entire 9to5 network and covers the latest Apple news for 9to5Mac.

Tips, questions, typos to chance@9to5mac.com