One perk of working in Apple’s giant spaceship campus, it seems, is the ability to try new features before we mere mortals get a peek. Tap to Pay, a feature Apple revealed in February that turns your iPhone into a digital payment terminal, is already being tested by company staffers ahead of its wide release.
A widely shared video posted by Twitter user @NTFTWT (as spotted by MacRumors) shows the feature being used at the Apple Park Visitor Center, where an employee is seen accepting payments directly from their iPhone. It all happens rather quickly; an employee confirms the payment amount on their device and presents it to a customer who then completes the digital handshake by tapping their iPhone to the other. Blue checkmarks appear with a fun animation to let both parties know everything went through properly.
When Tap to Pay was revealed, it was immediately seen as a threat to Block, Inc (owners of Square), which sells hardware that connects to an iPhone so small businesses can accept payments from debit cards, credit cards, and smartphones without a separate terminal. Square, it should be said, contains a comprehensive suite of payment features, whereas Tap to Pay simply facilitates contactless payments. Nonetheless, Tap to Pay could eat into Square’s revenue, as it removes the need for merchants to purchase additional hardware for contactless payment. It is also set to accept payment from all sorts of contactless payment options, and not just Apple Pay, meaning it will have broad applicability.
Rumors have been swirling for years about Apple offering such a payment method, and things hit a fever pitch in 2020 after Apple paid $100 million to purchase Mobeewave, a Canadian startup whose contactless payment tech only requires NFC. For those worried about their sensitive data, Apple says the feature will come with all the security and privacy of Apple Pay, and that the company doesn’t collect or know what data is being purchased in these anonymous transactions.
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Apple hasn’t said when Tap to Pay would be available, though this video suggests it’s entering the final phases of development. So far, the tech giant has only told us the feature would arrive “later this year.” When it does, it’ll first appear in beta versions of future iOS updates and be limited to iPhone XS and other newer models. Tap to Pay will likely be made available to iOS devs and other payment platforms, starting with apps that use Stripe, in the months ahead.