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By Dan Moren

WSJ: Apple Pay may go person-to-person next year

Apple Pay

According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple’s working on a person-to-person payment service:

The service under consideration would allow consumers to zap payments from their checking accounts to recipients through their Apple devices. The service would likely be linked to the company’s Apple Pay system, which allows customers to make credit-card and debit-card payments with their mobile phones.

A launch isn’t imminent, but one person said such a service could get off the ground next year.

I’ve been wanting something like this since, oh, at least December of last year. There are plenty of person-to-person payment services already out there—the Journal prominently mentions PayPal’s Venmo, but there’s also Square Cash, as well as offerings from Google and Facebook.

Square Cash is my current favorite system for transferring money back and forth electronically, but it has its drawbacks. Even though it’s among the most friction-free payment systems, it can still provide a bit of a barrier when you’re trying to convince others to sign up for the service: here, go to this site and enter your debit card number. Then download this app and initiate a request, and so on.

The other day, for example, my mom wrote me a check to pay me back for our new wireless family plan. This struck me as funny, since all I was going to end up doing to deposit said check was take a picture of it with my bank’s iOS app. The authenticity of real paper strikes me as a strange and anachronistic magic that we cling to.1 I thought about asking her to sign up for Square Cash, but realized that for her that’s far more complicated than just writing a check.

Apple Pay, as I see it, has a couple big advantages. For one thing, Apple’s done a solid job of bringing a diverse and large number of banks and credits cards to the service since its introduction a year ago, which could help speed adoption of a person-to-person payment system that works across many different financial institutions. For another, there’s already buy-in from most folks who own an Apple Pay-compatible iPhone device. And thirdly, there’s a simplicity to initiating a direct person-to-person transaction by physically tapping devices, rather than having to launch an app—even one as simple as Square Cash’s.

Add to that the security that Apple Pay already provides via Touch ID and one-time transaction IDs, and I think there’s a winning proposal here. It also seems, as I noted last year, that this could provide a powerful opportunity for Apple to provide merchant services for third parties.2 (Which would then put it in direct competition with Square, with whom it’s formed a casual alliance.) That would certainly help broaden support for Apple Pay and allow small independent vendors to accept more secure digital payments.

While it may be a while yet before this feature actually materializes, I think that when it comes to pass—and I feel pretty confident it will happen—we’ll look back at the original launch of Apple Pay and realize that it follows Apple’s patented playbook of iterated development, gradually adding features after the first ones have been stabilized. We’ve already seen the addition of Apple Pay-based rewards cards this year; person-to-person payments strikes me as a logical development heading into the next year of Apple Pay.


  1. Back when I had to file expense reports, I was once told that I needed to provide a hard copy of the original receipt from a hotel, rather than the PDF I sent in. Despite the fact that the original receipt was simply printed out of the hotel’s printer while I waited. There is nothing special about the piece of paper the original was printed on. Baffling.  ↩

  2. Thinking back to my iPhone 6s purchasing experience this year, I’m pretty sure I still had to produce a credit card that got swiped on a handheld terminal. Maybe that was because I was buying a phone, or because I was signing up for the iPhone Upgrade Program? Either way, I’m retroactively a bit surprised that Apple Pay wasn’t used.  ↩

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[Dan Moren is a tech writer, novelist, podcaster, and the Official Dan of Six Colors. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]