The rumors were true: Apple is launching a system that lets businesses process contactless payments with nothing but an iPhone.
The system is called Tap to Pay, and it’s coming “later this year.”
Tap to Pay will require an iPhone XS or later, and will primarily work with Apple Pay, though other payment platforms will be supported. Apple says Tap to Pay will work with contactless credit and debit cards from payment networks such as American Express, Discover, Mastercard, and Visa. It’s launching in the U.S. first, where “millions of merchants” will be able to join the program.
The most important trait of the system is the fact that, besides an iPhone, no additional hardware is needed. Systems from companies such as Square do require a separate device that needs to be connected to the phone first.
In practice, this will how it will work: At checkout, the customer will use their iPhone or Apple Watch as they regularly do when paying with Apple Pay, only instead of holding it next to a payment terminal, they’ll hold it near the merchant’s iPhone, and the payment will completed using NFC tech.
On the privacy front, Apple says Tap to Pay is protected by the same tech as Apple Pay. All transactions are encrypted and processed through Apple’s Secure Element, and Apple won’t know who’s buying what using the system.
The announcement is a little odd as it’s set at an unspecified time later this year, though Stripe, which will be the first payment platform to offer Tap to Pay, will kick things off this spring, with other payment platforms and apps to follow.
With Tap to Pay, Apple will significantly advance its payments-related features, which currently include Apple Pay and Apple Card, and likely deliver a blow to Square or any other system that will require additional hardware and/or steps to complete a payment.