Apple seen inching closer to a mobile-payment service

The iPhone maker has long been expected to jump into mobile payments. Now a new report says that Apple's talks with payment industry players have "heated up."

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The iPhone's Passbook in action. James Martin/CNET

Apple may introduce a new mobile-payment system as soon as the fall, which would add yet another tech giant to a particularly hot trend in mobile.

The Information reported Wednesday that conversations between Apple and companies in the payment industry, such as Visa, have "heated up" in recent months. Citing people briefed on the talks, the online publication said Apple executives discussed launching a mobile "wallet" soon and it could be included in the introduction of the highly anticipated iPhone 6.

The area of mobile payments has drawn considerable attention from the tech industry, with companies seeking to either gain payment data from customers or take a small cut of credit and debit transactions. Still, in-store payments using smartphones haven't been particularly popular with customers, and a few major initiatives have struggled to make progress.

Google has been blocked from wireless carriers' networks for its Google Wallet app. Several wireless carriers -- looking to take on mobile payments themselves under the name Isis Mobile Wallet -- spent years building partnerships, but said this month the service would change its name after the word "Isis" became synonymous with a Middle East-based terror group. The Isis Mobile initiative is jointly run by Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and T-Mobile.

Startup Square and eBay's PayPal are just two more of the many companies offering services in the mobile-payment market.

While many other companies started pushing into mobile payments around 2011, Apple has been slower to jump into the waters, though industry watchers have long expected the company to eventually come out with a mobile wallet service. In January, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company was intrigued by mobile payments and added that part of the thinking in rolling out the iPhone 5S's Touch ID feature was, potentially, to complement payments.

A small step Apple has taken into that arena was Passbook, a service launched in 2012 that brought together a person's loyalty cards, coupons, and event tickets on the iPhone. Passbook doesn't include debit or credit card payment features.

Apple declined to comment.

 

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