Google prepares for the digital currency revolution with Wallet, but where is Apple?

Google offers their Google Wallet which supports NFC payment technology – and the team say they are working on integrating Bitcoin.

Ariel Bardin, Vice President of Payments at Google, has asked a Redditor to ask “What would I want Google to do with Bitcoin?” so he can watch the conversation.

Microsoft has a digital wallet, but there’s no word whether it will support Bitcoin (or others.)

The omission from this list is Apple, who many see as not taking risks by entering a new arena before it is sure to be a success. Right now there isn’t even support for traditional bank payments outside of on-device purchases such as apps and music.

Whether Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Coinye, any other, or a currency we are yet to see arise – whoever becomes the dominant digital currency requires trusted digital wallets to be stored in.

Apple’s head of e-commerce, Jennifer Bailey, is said to be actively in interviews with potential candidates whose “ambitions are very, very serious” said a source close to the situation. The company, through iTunes in particular, holds a vast amount of customer details already.

E-commerce — via the music and movies you can get in iTunes, iBooks and the app stores — is Apple's second-fastest growing business right now. It is also likely to become Apple’s second most profitable business segment.

During a question and answer session earlier this year, Tim Cook, chief executive, said that mobile payments are "a big opportunity". "The mobile payments area in general is one we’ve been intrigued with. It was one of the thoughts behind Touch ID," he said.

TouchID sets Apple out from the crowd in the space. Google can’t implement a fingerprint scanner in every Android device due to no control of manufacturing partners. In terms of easy but relatively strong security – this can put Apple ahead of the pack...

Right now the company is not fully utilising TouchID’s potential. Most would have thought the feature would at least be used to help secure the company’s “Passbook” app but it can only currently be used to unlock the device and make purchases in the AppStore.

With the rumoured iWatch said to be arriving this year – it could be another opportunity for Apple to “think different” about mobile payments. Imagine being able to tap your watch near a payment terminal – secured with TouchID – to make your purchase?

Hopefully we’ll hear more at this year’s WWDC which runs June 2nd – 6th 2014.

Digital currencies are an indisputable future – it’s just a matter of how long it takes before they become an everyday commodity. Bitcoin is leading the path, even if its boom was for a lot of dubious payments, and as of writing a single coin sits at a whopping $442 (£263).

Now black market sites such as Silk Road are being shuttered by the powers that be – interest is shifting towards more legitimate purposes. A man recently bought a $103,000 Tesla Model S with Bitcoin and you can find dealerships such as CoinMotors for us on a less extravagant budget…

Local businesses have also started offering customers the ability to pay through Bitcoin – in fact so many that Yelp has today added the ability to search for those nearby in their vast directory listings who offer such a service.

It is clear that interest is high, and governments are looking for ways to regulate and tax a currency which solely exists in digital wallets.  That’s a tall order. Exchanges such as Mt Gox have been vulnerable to attacks and ended up losing more than 650,000 coins.

With no government-backed deposit guarantees in place, losing Bitcoins is like having paper money blown out of your hand by the wind.

The UK recently announced it will treat Bitcoin as property, for tax purposes, after initially classifying it as vouchers. Last month the US took the same stance. In areas such as mainland China and Taiwan, financial institutions are banned from handling Bitcoin transactions – whilst usage is restricted.

It is illegal in Iceland for any purposes.

Will Apple enter the mobile payments market this year?

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