Apple CEO Tim Cook: Mobile payments still in their infancy

Neither near-field communications nor any similar mobile-payment technology appears to be on Apple's agenda at this point.

Lance Whitney
Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
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Apple CEO Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook. James Martin/CNET

Apple doesn't seem ready to leap into the mobile payments arena, at least according to comments made Tuesday by CEO Tim Cook.

During Tuesday's conference call announcing fiscal second-quarter earnings, Cook responded to a question about mobile payments.

"I think it's in its infancy," the Apple CEO said. "I think it's just getting started. Just out of the starting block."

Reading between the lines, that likely means Apple has no plans to jump onto the mobile payments bandwagon, at least not at this point. Past rumors have continually suggested that the company would add NFC (near-field communications) technology to its next iPhone to allow people to pay for items using their smartphones. But Cook's comment seems to have effectively quashed those rumors for the time being.

Apple is very cautious about hopping onto relatively new markets and trends, preferring instead to wait until they've fully matured. It also wants to ensure that it can deliver a bulletproof experience to its users with no compromises. Following last year's debacle with its Maps app, Apple is likely to be even more careful now at introducing new features and technologies.

The company also adopted a similar attitude with 4G. In April 2011, Tim Cook, then chief operating officer, said that the first-generation LTE chipsets "force a lot of design compromises." Apple didn't unveil a 4G device until it launched the third-generation iPad almost a year later.

Apple took its first baby steps into the payments market through last year's release of Passbook. But Passbook isn't a mobile payments app; rather it allows people to electronically store tickets, coupons, and loyalty cards. The loyalty cards and coupons can be redeemed at retailers such as Starbucks and Apple to pay for items.

Apple will undoubtedly equip the iPhone and iPad with mobile payments technology at some point. But the company will apparently wait as long as it takes to make sure the timing is right and the feature makes sense for its users.