Visitors to Apple Park Can Now Experience ‘Tap to Pay on iPhone’

Although this feature is not yet widely available, developers are preparing themselves.
Tap to Pay with iPhone May Soon be Widely Available Credit: Apple
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Apple’s new Tap to Pay on iPhone feature has been spotted in the wild, with one visitor to Apple Park discovering that some of the company’s employees are now taking mobile payments directly on their iPhones.

Apple announced the Tap to Pay feature in early February, sharing that it was opening the doors for developers of third-party payment processing apps to leverage the NFC hardware in the iPhone to accept contactless payments directly without the need for a separate accessory.

Although the company hasn’t offered a specific timeline for when the new Tap to Pay feature will be widely available, code was added in iOS 15.4 and iOS 15.5 so that developers could begin getting ready. While our sources have told us that we won’t see a full release until iOS 16 arrives later this year, Apple does appear to have already started a more limited rollout within its own walls.

A video posted on Twitter by @NTFTWT shows the new Tap to Pay feature in use at the Apple Park Visitor Center, with an Apple employee taking a payment from a customer directly on an iPhone — with no payment terminal or add-one accessory in sight.

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While companies such as Square have long promoted mobile payments using an iPhone, this has always required a small NFC reader that typically interfaces with the iPhone over a Bluetooth connection. Older versions of Square’s technology used a magnetic stripe reader that connected to the iPhone headphone jack and, later, the Lightning port. However, in these days of contactless payments, the NFC method has basically taken over.

It’s not unusual for Apple to try out new features and designs at its Apple Park Visitor Center. Since this is basically an Apple retail store within the walls of the company’s headquarters, it serves as an ideal testing ground for features that aren’t ready for a broader rollout to its standalone retail stores.

So, by itself, this shouldn’t be taken as evidence that we’ll see Tap to Pay on iPhone arrive before iOS 16 in the fall. However, combined with some of Apple’s other recent announcements of getting new payment providers on board, it’s possible we could see similarly limited rollouts among other retailers before too long.

For example, in early April, e-commerce provider Adyen announced its partnership with Apple to support the new feature. Adyen powers Lightspeed Commerce and NewStore, which provide point-of-sale solutions for a wide range of online and brick-and-mortar retailers, including such big names as Facebook, Uber, H&M, eBay, and Microsoft.

Adyen and NewStore have also announced plans to pilot Tap to Pay on iPhone at Vince, a luxury apparel and accessories brand that operates 48 retail stores and 15 outlet stores across the United States. It’s these kinds of pilot projects that could roll out in the coming weeks, ahead of a wider release of Tap to Pay for all in iOS 16.

Nevertheless, Apple is only providing the frameworks that will power Tap to Pay through a series of APIs that unlock the NFC hardware. Third-party payment apps will still need to get on board to handle the actual payment processing, but the good news is that they’re already lining up for the privilege. Apple launched with both Stripe and Shopify on board, and there are probably more than a few others already working with the iPhone maker behind the scenes.

When it finally does launch, vendors will be able to take contactless payments — both from physical cards and digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay — without the need for additional hardware. This will also make life much easier for customers, as it will open the door to a world where any sales associate can take payments from anywhere within a retail store.

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