Apple’s New Patent Filing Offers A Rare Glimpse Into The Company’s Mobile Payment Strategy

Apple Passbook Patent

A newly published patent application from Apple appears to offer a glimpse at the company’s plans for a future mobile wallet, and it looks a lot like a souped-up version of Passbook, the company’s current app for digital coupons, gift cards, and loyalty programs.

Apple could launch a mobile wallet as soon as next month, when the company will reportedly announce the iPhone 6. Experts have speculated that an Apple mobile wallet, which would allow iPhone users to pay in stores with their phone, will likely build on Passbook and use the iPhone’s Touch ID fingerprint scanner to authorise transactions.

The new patent filing suggests that those theories are on target. An accompanying picture (see above) shows a mobile wallet that revolves around “digital cards” for different retailers, just as Passbook does, and seems to include QR codes to power payments at a hypothetical merchant.

The patent application, published on July 31, describes a parental control system that would allow users to control payment authorization on their children’s devices — a topic of particular concern for Apple after an FTC lawsuit over unauthorised in-app purchases by children, which the company settled for $US32.5 million in January.

The disclosure follows rumours of an Apple partnership with Visa on a mobile payments solution. Last week, on a conference call with investors, Visa CEO Charlie Scharf declined to comment specifically on the reported Apple partnership, except to say that the company was “very excited about some of the things that we’re talking to potential partners about.”

The recent release of iTunes Pass, which allows users to load cash onto an iTunes account at an Apple Store, could also fit into a Passbook-based mobile payments plan. The feature lives as a digital card in Passbook, and displays a QR barcode that, when scanned by an Apple Store clerk, brings up the account’s linked credit card information on the clerk’s mobile terminal.

Apple did not respond to request for comment on the patent application or the reported Visa partnership.

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