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iOS 15.4: Apple reportedly adding way to use iPhones as standalone payment terminals

A 2020 acquisition is reportedly powering plans to let the company's iPhones accept physical credit card payments without the need for any external hardware or readers.

Apple is reportedly prepping a new component for its iOS 15.4 update that will let businesses start using iPhones to accept credit card payments without the need for any external hardware or card reading device. 

According to Bloomberg, the technology is being enabled by Apple's 2020 acquisition of a Canadian startup called Mobeewave. The firm, which cost Apple around $100 million, created assets that would allow existing smartphones to process credit card payments via built-in chips, like the ones that power Apple Pay in all modern iPhones. It worked with Samsung to bring similar payment acceptance functionality to its Galaxy series smartphones before its acquisition.

The Mobeewave technology would require customers to simply tap their chip-enabled credit cards, or even other NFC-enabled smartphones, to the back of an iPhone to begin payment processing. 

Previously, businesses that wanted to process physical credit cards via an iPhone or iPad had to rely on an external device, typically either hardwired to their iOS model or connected via Bluetooth. If this report proves true, the need for such hardware could quickly disappear. This would leave companies like Block (formerly Square), which make the hardware and platforms that powered iOS credit card transactions to this point, in an awkward position. 

Apple could potentially open the technology up to third-party apps, meaning Block's Square platform could continue at least processing the payments accepted by the on-device reader. This might soften the blow for the funds it would lose on hardware revenue due to the iOS upgrade. 

However, there also exists the possibility that Apple will limit the new functionality to its own first-party platforms, processing all accepted payments exclusively through Apple Pay or something like it. 

According to Bloomberg's sources, we should know more soon. A version of the new payment offering is expected to ship with the first beta of Apple's iOS 15.4 update "in the coming months." If the big reveal does happen in the spring, it might coincide with other rumored Apple debuts, such as a refreshed iPhone SE, new Macs, or updated iPads. 

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