Apple Pay launches with 'game-changing' potential
16 January 2018 15:15 GMT

Biometric technology has been handed a starring role both in the new iPhone 6 and the iOS8

By Craig Guthrie, Editor

After much speculation and alongside a bevvy of other improvements in its new iPhone 6, Apple on Tuesday unveiled a new “mobile wallet” system that uses near field communication (NFC) and a fingerprint sensor to authenticate purchases.

While the addition of a feature-laden smartwatch and introduction of the 5.5-inch screen 6 Plus grabbed much press attention, it is arguably Apple Pay that has the most game-changing implications for the way humans use Apple devices.  

Credit card information will be stored in the phone’s PassBook app, while the transaction process uses the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Users simply place their phone near special terminals and their near NFC antenna will communicate with what Apple is calling the Secure Element, a dedicated chip that stores encrypted payment information.

Such security elements would differentiate the Apple system from rivals Google Wallet and Samsung’s mobile payment services. For example, the former service has been blocked from using NFC components on its devices.

Speaking at the launch event, chief executive Tim Cook took aim at the current way debit and credit cards are used for payments.

"This whole process is based on this little piece of plastic, whether its a credit or debit card. We’re totally reliant on the exposed numbers, and the outdated and vulnerable magnetic interface, which by the way is five decades old, and the security codes which all of us know aren’t so secure," he said.

The iSight camera, built-in to the iPhone 6, can take picture of your debit or credit cards and the details are automatically input to Passbook.

According to this report by Bank Innovation, the biometrics features of TouchID were a significant aspect of payments discounts Apple was able to negotiate with large banks for Apple Pay.

“Apple … told issuers that it would assume some of the fraud risk inherent in every transaction by providing a secure element via biometric authentication (its TouchID feature) and location data provided through an NFC chip,” reported the magazine.

Some 220,000 merchants equipped with contactless payments will be able to accept Apple Pay instantly following its launch, including, Walgreens, Duane Reade, Target, Staples, McDonald’s, Subway, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Whole Foods Market.

Biometrics in iOS 8

This list of retailers seems only set to expand with the imminent launch of iOS8 – principally because the new operating system will for the first time open up TouchID to third party apps following its launch on September 17.

Australian banks St George Bank and ANZ have already noted plans to develop “biometrics banking” with the launch of the operating system, Computerworld reported in August.