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July 8, 2015

Apple probes peer-to-peer payments as Pay readies for UK launch

Patent filed in US offers intriguing possibilities for firm's future in finance.

By Jimmy Nicholls

A patent application filed by Apple in the US is leading to speculation over a future peer-to-peer (P2P) payments scheme as it prepares to roll out Apple Pay in the UK.

At present iPhone and Apple Watch owners in the US can make payments to merchants through near-field communication, the technology that powers contactless payment cards and travel cards such as the Oyster scheme in London.

However the patent would seemingly let friends, family and other associates exchange money through the secured Apple Wallet app, considerably expanding the firm’s payments capability.

As a means of authentication Apple proposes the use of biometric sensors, which could include fingerprints, and the use of encrypted tokens, which are created for one-time use in electronic payments.

Whilst the application was filed last September its disclosure to the public comes a mere week before the launch of Apple Pay in the UK, the first time the scheme will be expanded outside of the US.

American Express, NatWest and Santander are among the banks preparing for the launch, with some Santander customers claiming to have already registered for the service earlier this week.

Apple claims that some 250,000 retailers will accept Apple Pay as a form of payment on the scheme’s launch, including Transport for London, Marks and Spencer, and Boots.

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The UK’s widespread adoption of Chip and PIN and contactless payment has already put in place much of the infrastructure necessary to run the scheme, in contrast to the US whose lax adoption of Chip and PIN has made it a centre for card fraud.

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