Rumors about an Apple-backed peer-to-peer payments system that could compete with services like Square Cash, PayPal’s Venmo, and Google Wallet have been floating around for years. Those rumors still haven’t amounted to anything yet, but a new report from Recode indicates that Apple is still interested and that it’s in talks with banks and other “payments industry partners” about launching a peer-to-peer payments service later this year.
If launched, the service would likely fall under the Apple Pay umbrella. Right now, Apple Pay supports online and in-app payments and in-person contactless payments, but the app only lets users send money to merchants. The company is also allegedly looking into offering its own pre-paid debit cards, though the Recode report suggests Apple could face pushback from the banks it partners with to make the rest of Apple Pay work.
If Apple did get into the money transfer business, it would be a late entry into a crowded market, much as Apple Music was. But the sheer size of Apple’s installed base and its ability to push these new services out to people quickly via an operating system update without needing to prompt for any new app downloads or account sign ups still shouldn’t be underestimated. At last count in December, Apple’s music service had racked up 20 million paid subscribers after a little less than a year and a half. This isn’t too shabby compared to the 50 million milestone that Spotify just hit after a little more than eight years on the market, though that is up from 30 million in March of 2016 and 40 million in September. Apple Music obviously hasn’t stopped Spotify from growing quickly, and an Apple-backed money transfer service wouldn’t necessarily upend that market, either.
As of iOS 10, Apple lets third-party peer-to-peer payment apps offer iMessage and Siri app extensions to allow their apps to integrate more deeply with the rest of the operating system. Whether an Apple-owned service would be able to do extra things that those third-party services can’t isn’t clear.