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At It Again: Apple’s Slow But Sure Reception of NFC and Mobile Wallet Payments

Apple's newest iWallet Patent

[Photo Credit: Patently Apple]

Apple has said before that it is not yet ready to proceed with mobile wallet payments. Google has launched Google Wallet on its Android phones, and Google’s OS entitles each Android handset to Google Wallet access. Google has maintained control over its OS so that the experience can be identical for all Android users. When it comes to OS upgrades, Android users want the “Pure Google” experience, seeing that phones manufactured by Google are the first to receive the new OS upgrade.

One of the newest technologies in Android smartphones is near field communication, or NFC. NFC is a tech feature that allows you to transmit photos and documents (or other information) to someone who also has an NFC-ready smartphone. If you want to send photos, just activate S-Beam and place your smartphone to the back of another. NFC also comes in handy with mobile wallet payments, a new way of paying for your purchases without having to carry around 25 different gift cards, credit cards, and the like. For those who have the “set-it-and-forget it” mindset, NFC is ideal.

Apple has said with the arrival of its iPhone 5 that it did not really care for NFC all that much, that Passbook would meet the needs of its consumer base just fine. I respect Apple’s demeanor in the face of questions; at the same time, I think it down right deceitful that the company would say, “We don’t really need NFC” and then turn around behind the media and file patents that intend to incorporate NFC into its technology.

Occasionally, Apple will file a patent that simply protects an idea, without having much intention of using it. However, what do you make of a company that files not one, but two patents relating to a tech feature? At some point, you have to admit that there is more of an interest there than just protecting an idea. One recent patent pertained to the use of Passbook for authorizing and conducting payment transactions for Apple Store merchandise. The most recent patent filed by the Cupertino, California company is titled “Motion-based payment confirmation” and pertains to the use of motion regarding whether or not to accept a payment transaction. If a consumer intends to pay for a product via his or her iPhone, the individual need only move certain elements on the user interface to indicate acceptance or rejection of a financial transaction. While much of patent language can be “legalese,” this part of the patent description indicates consumer-merchant payment system:

“Upon confirmation, payment information for the payment transaction may be transmitted to a merchant or payment recipient. Various additional methods, machine-readable media, and devices for confirming payment transactions are provided.”

The basic description of the patent is as follows:

“A method comprising an electronic device performing the following steps: receiving a user input selecting a payment instrument; displaying a confirmation screen for confirming a payment with the selected payment instrument, wherein the confirmation screen comprises a slide bar with three discrete positions and no intermediate positions therebetween, wherein the three discrete positions comprise a payment confirmation disposed at a first end of the slide bar, a decline position disposed at the second end of a slide bar…and an initial position disposed on the slide bar between the payment confirmation position and the decline position…” (http://www.freepatentsonline.com/8364590.html).

What does all of this legalese say in laymen’s terms? Basically, the “slide to unlock” bar on the iPhone display will be used to slide either to the left of the iPhone screen to confirm a payment, or to the right to decline a payment. Have you ever seen a computer screen or smartphone say, “Do you want to authorize this payment,” followed by two buttons (“yes” and “no”)? This is what Apple’s payment system will have, except the “yes” and “no” responses will be done by way of sliding the slide bar to the left or right.

These are not the only mobile wallet patents Cupertino has produced. There are others, stretching over some 17 years. I will cover just a few of these additional mobile wallet patents in a new article titled “This is Why Future IPhones Will Have NFC.” Stay tuned.