Editor’s Note: At CNN Business’ new live event series, The Table, we speak with transformative voices across industries about the ways in which technological disruption is changing their organization and the economy at large. Next month, we’ll sit down with Brian Niccol, the CEO of Chipotle.
Apple may not be fully on the crypto bandwagon like other tech companies, but it is keeping an eye on digital currency.
“We’re watching cryptocurrency,” Jennifer Bailey, vice president of Apple Pay, recently told CNN’s Chief Business Correspondent Christine Romans at a private event in San Francisco. “We think it’s interesting. We think it has interesting long-term potential.”
Bailey touched on the trend as part of a discussion about the future of payment and the role of Apple Pay and Apple Card at CNN Business’ event series, The Table. It’s part of an ongoing multi-city series that features discussions with transformative voices across the business and tech industries.
Apple’s interest in crypto follows similar consideration from a growing number of tech companies. Facebook (FB) is expected to launch its own cryptocurrency, Libra, in 2020. And Square, the payment processing company, said earlier this year it was hiring crypto engineers.
“This would be a major shot in the arm for crypto if Apple headed down this path,” Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, told CNN Business. “Given where Apple strategically is focused, a move into crypto could make sense given its sights on further monetizing its consumers over the coming years.”
Apple first got into mobile payments in 2014, after much anticipation, with the launch of Apple Pay. In typical Apple fashion, the company promised the service would ” transform” the mobile payment market by offering a simple and secure way to make payments in apps and in brick-and-mortar stores.
The company wouldn’t confirm how many people are currently using Apple Pay, but it processes nearly one billion transactions a month. Since the launch in 2014, acceptance of contactless payments in stores has increased from 3% to over 70% in the US, according to Bailey.
While Apple is aiming for universal acceptance with Apple Pay, the United States has been slower to adopt contactless payments than other countries, according to Bailey. “When you go to Europe, they bring you a wireless terminal. You can tap to pay,” she said. “We see that happening in the US too, [but] it’s still taking some time.”
Bailey also noted that it can be costly for businesses like gas stations to adopt new systems.
At the same time, Apple Pay has had at least one unintended consequence. By enabling people to stop carrying cash, services like Apple Pay have made it harder and less convenient for users to tip. Some point-of-sale systems have good tipping functionality, but certainly not all.
Apple is aware of the problem but doesn’t have an easy fix yet. “One of the key areas where [customers] would like us to do more is actually in tipping,” Bailey said.
Apple must also grapple with what Bailey calls a “misperception” among some consumers that “paying with your physical card is more secure than actually paying with your mobile phone.” The truth, she adds, “is completely the opposite.” But Bailey admits “a lot of education” is still needed to help consumers understand that point.
For right now, Apple is looking to grow its footing in the financial market by embracing a physical card of its own. Last month, the company launched the Apple Card, its first credit card. The card is built into the iPhone’s Apple Wallet app, but there is an option to get a laser-etched titanium card too. The white credit card is sleek and simple — it doesn’t even have numbers on it.
But it may not be simple to keep the card looking pristine. Apple recently warned consumers to keep the card away from other credit cards as well as some fabrics like leather and denim.
“We want it always to look perfect and unblemished,” Bailey said.