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Lighter and lighter

9 September 2014 By Robert Cyran

Apple has cooked up a recipe for emptying pockets and wallets. In addition to unveiling two new smartphones, the tech giant has combined a fingerprint sensor and an overlooked app into an iPhone payment system that looks secure and easy to use. A new watch lacks obvious appeal but has potential to replace car keys and other pocket detritus. Higher profits may be the cherry on top.

The latest smartphone names – iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus – won’t wow anyone. But the devices boast goodies like bigger screens, longer battery life and a faster processor. That should be enough to attract new customers and entice Apple fans into an upgrade.

The big news is the payments app, Apple Pay. The company’s fingerprint scanner always seemed a cool technology looking for a use. And the Apple Passbook application for storing airplane boarding passes and coupons also languished on screens. The combination of the two, however, is greater than the sum of the parts.

Users will be able to tap their phones against a terminal and confirm their identity with the fingerprint scanner. Credit cards will be stored in Passbook, but instead of seeing the card number, merchants will only receive a payment number and a dynamic code. That should enhance security by making it harder for thieves to use stolen cards and preventing magnetic strips from being copied.

Mobile payments are a potentially huge market for Apple, as investors demonstrated by adding about $18 billion to the company’s market value on news of Apple Pay. Their reception for the Apple Watch was considerably less enthusiastic. The device works in tandem with an iPhone and among other things plays music, measures a user’s physical activity and provides a variety of news and information. It still lacks a killer app, though.

Yet there may be more to come. The company mentioned almost as an aside that the watch can be programmed to open doors at Starwood Hotels. That fits with Apple’s ambition to make cash and wallets obsolete. Figuring out even more ways to put keys, drivers’ licenses, healthcare cards and other items on Apple devices while keeping them secure seems a sure – and lucrative – way to win the hearts of customers.

 

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