Pros & Cons: Open NFC payments in the iPhone?

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pros cons open nfc payments in the iphone.png

So far, iPhone owners can only pay with Apple Pay at NFC checkouts, there are no NFC wallets from other providers. Should that change?


Apple controls the payment functions of the iPhone very precisely: With Apple Pay, there is exactly one approved service that can use the NFC interface for contactless payment that has been built into the devices for years. However, the pressure from outside is growing: Banks have been demanding for a long time that they can use NFC payments in their own apps so that there is no longer any obligation to use Apple Pay. There are even initial complaints about this and the EU Commission is also taking a close look at the issue.

Meanwhile, Apple is beginning to implement a “Tap to Pay” function that turns the iPhone into an NFC payment terminal – interestingly, in cooperation with third-party providers. So is it time to fully release the NFC interface in Apple devices for paid offers? That would have advantages and disadvantages, as our Pro & Contra shows.

Apple Pay certainly doesn’t need to hide behind an arbitrary hardware restriction that locks out the competition. Eventually, if I don’t like a banking app, I can switch to another bank with a better app, and the same should apply to NFC wallets and mobile payment services. On my iPhone I would like to determine for myself which wallet speaks to the NFC interface. And one would think that iPhone owners would be mature enough to decide who to trust with their credit card information and which wallet to use.

The fact that Apple withholds this from me is encroaching. The justification that there were security concerns and customer protection behind it doesn’t work for me: First and foremost, Apple is protecting its own wallet, after all, the group earns money from every Apple Pay transaction. The customer is not served by the restriction. Exciting new NFC wallets and payment services cannot even be created in this way, after all, the billion-euro market of iPhone users remains closed to them. The iPhone’s NFC controller speaks for payments with an industry-standard “Secure Element” that processes the payment via Java Card applets.

Apple itself has demonstrated on another occasion that this can be opened up to other financial service providers in a secure manner: if iPhones accept payments as NFC point-of-sale terminals (“tap to pay on iPhone”), third-party services can take over the processing. So why isn’t it possible to pay with the iPhone? Before laws like the Digital Markets Act force the group to do so, Apple should push ahead and open the NFC interface. That would not only be good for the market, but also for all iPhone owners, who would have more choice – in addition to Apple Pay. (lbe)


I have been very satisfied with Apple Pay for a long time. The technology is just what you want it to be: It simply works, regardless of whether I want to make contactless payments with my iPhone or – even more conveniently – with my Apple Watch. The reason for this perfection is that Apple controls and controls everything very precisely here. Users are not dependent on using some poorly functioning app from their bank, the payment system is built directly into iOS and watchOS. Of course, one can understand that financial institutions look jealously at Apple Pay – and would therefore like to have opened the NFC interface in the iPhone and Apple Watch.

Then they could bypass Apple’s Apple Pay fees and simply process payments themselves via their apps. However, I am afraid that this would not only have advantages for the user. Not only would there be a risk of much crazier software than Apple Pay itself, the banks would also have more access to payment data, which Apple has so far denied them thanks to privacy protection. What this “open” future could look like can be seen on Android devices, where the chaos is big. Every payment provider that comes along comes with its own app, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.

Security also potentially suffers accordingly: only if you know what is happening with your own money can you keep control. Instead of opening up the iPhone to other NFC payment systems, Apple should continue to improve its own. The banks that have so far refused to accept Apple Pay could be attracted by lower fees. The acceptance of special local card solutions such as the Girocard can also help, as their launch in Germany has shown. So in order to avoid the NFC opening requirement, Apple would simply have to get a little bit better. And that helps us all, doesn’t it? (bsc)