Big Opportunity: Apple CEO's Revealing Comments on Mobile Payments

Earlier this afternoon Apple announced quarterly earnings. The company reported record revenues of $57.6 billion, as well as record iPad, iPhone and Mac sales. However iPhone sales figures disappointed financial analysts, who were seeking higher numbers. 

Apple sold 26 million iPads, 4.8 million Macs and 51 million iPhones during the quarter. 

During the earnings call Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked about his company's interest in mobile payments. Cook praised TouchID as a security feature of the iPhone 5s that does trigger digital content payments today. He added that Apple was “intrigued” by the mobile payments broadly -- although he's called the space immature before. But he said Apple saw it as a “big opportunity on the platform.”

This seems to lends further solidity and credibility to recent reports that Apple is actively pursuing mobile payments.

First there was a mobile payments patent filing. Then last week the Wall Street Journal reported that two key Apple employees were involved in creating a mobile payments business inside the company:

  • Eddy Cue, Apple's iTunes and App Store chief . . . has met with industry executives to discuss Apple's interest in handling payments for physical goods and services on its devices, according to people familiar with the situation.
  • Apple moved Jennifer Bailey, a longtime executive who was running its online stores, into a new role to build a payment business within the technology giant, three people with knowledge of the move said.

Apple has roughly 600 million consumer credit cards on file in iTunes. 

Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer also discussed iBeacon on the earnings call. He mentioned Apple's intended rollout at all the company's 250+ retails stores and described a number of use cases and applications based on indoor location awareness.

While mobile payments and indoor location aren't necessarily overlapping, they're certainly related. For example, location can be used as an added security measure to verify a shopper's presence in the store and provide additional transaction security (along with other factors, such as TouchID).  

As I've argued I think Apple will initially get into mobile payments via an API that allows third party developers to incorporate a "pay with iTunes" capability into their mobile apps. This would likely extend to developers with apps that service or cater to "offline" users.