Apple Pay is due for release in the Apple Store in October and is already making waves with people who enjoy carrying their iDevices everywhere they go. This is an app that can be used to replace all of the plastic cards in people’s wallets. While it is one more iteration of the fact that leather wallets are on their way out, it probably looks like a step backwards to those of us who are veteran Bitcoin users. You can only use it on iOS and who needs credit cards when you can use Bitcoin to buy coffee, gift cards, and more RAM for your desktop computer.
Even though I don’t expect Apple Pay to be a PayPal-killer when Bitcoin has spent five years making headway and will probably spend another decade or two putting more nails in the coffin of the traditional banking system, the fact that there is another competitor upsetting Paypal. I know, big deal, right? These are the guys who shut down your account for buying an URL with Bitcoin in the address. Paypal has been lashing out at the people who actually use Bitcoin and now they appear to have a new target for their vitriol – or at least, a new target for attack ads. Paypal is increasingly becoming identical to that politician who can’t talk about what makes him great because he knows he’s ineffective. So he attacks his opponent. This is really Paypal realizing that it stands to lose more market share to one more rival. Instead of improving its service, it goes into attack mode.
To be fair, Apple (AAPL) isn’t all that great. Really its biggest achievements are that it pioneered the idea of the personal computer back in the 1980s, and then introduced us all to the idea of the tablet with the iPad in the 2000s. It’s also been really good at stealing market share from Microsoft even though the iOS security apparently isn’t much better than Windows’. Apple Pay doesn’t really introduce much that is groundbreaking when you can already download Gyft apps for iPad and Android tablets so you’ll have your e-gift cards with you whenever you take your tablet shopping. Its biggest benefit is that it has an ability to reach the audience of Apple fanboys and fangirls, and thus introduces the idea that you can ditch that bulky leather wallet to an audience that probably hasn’t noticed that a Bitcoin wallet is back in the Apple Store yet. Once Apple users get used to the concept of carrying their credit cards on their iPad, they’re one step closer to being ready for cryptocurrencies.
Sometimes this is the way to introduce people to a new concept. You do it slowly. Laptops got people used to the idea that you can carry your computing power with you. Tablets are basically the same concept in a smaller package with an impossible keyboard. USB comes along and suddenly you can carry a few gigabytes in your pocket to plug in anywhere. Now they have this thing called the cloud and Google Docs makes sharing your files easy. Apple Pay can be the gateway to introducing iDevice users to Bitcoin simply by introducing them to the idea that they can ditch those plastic cards. So this could just be the stalking horse for getting Apple fans involved in the Bitcoin community.
Obviously, I don’t expect too much out of Apple Pay except as a way to introduce people to the idea that physical wallets are obsolete. Remember, this is the company that couldn’t figure out how to clone Google Maps, so they may still spend a little time working out the bugs. It’s possible that somebody at Apple headquarters took a good hard look at the Gyft app and figured they could do something similar. People will get used to using it and think it’s cool that they can scan a gadget at their favorite coffee place to pay for their cappuccino.
Bitcoin’s biggest advantage here is that it’s not tied to any specific operating system the way Apple Pay is going to be. It doesn’t care if you use a Mac or an Android tablet. So, if you own a Nexus, you aren’t going to be out of luck. Just download the Bitcoin wallet and the Gyft app, and you can do almost everything that Apple Pay can do. Between the two of those, I will not be very surprised if you already threw out your leather wallet and cut up your debit card.