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Palash Volvoikar

Apple will let third-party apps use iPhone's NFC tap-to-pay feature in bid to address EU antitrust concerns

Apple Pay Webpage.

Apple has had to make quite a few changes to how it operates as a result of the EU's antitrust investigations, and it appears we may be headed for another big one. Apple Pay is popular because of the tap-to-pay convenience on the iPhone, which isn't something third-party apps have been able to access on the iPhone. However, that may be changing soon.

A press release from the European Commission reveals that Apple has committed to open up access to the tap-to-pay functionality to third-party mobile wallets and payment service providers. The commitments are likely EU-specific, though, so we may not see this happen globally just yet.

iPhone's tap-to-pay to be accessible to third-party apps for at least a decade

The Europan Commission's press release discusses the proposed commitments from Apple to correct the company's " dominant position on mobile wallet markets on iOS".

The commitment is basically Apple promising to opening up the NFC-based tap-to-pay functionality to apps that aren't Apple Pay, free of cost. The exact wording is, "To allow third-party mobile wallet and payment service providers to access and interoperate through a set of Application Programming Interfaces (‘APIs') with the NFC functionality on iOS devices free of charge, without having to use Apple Pay or Apple Wallet. Apple would create the necessary APIs to allow equivalent access to the NFC components in the so-called Host Card Emulation (‘HCE') mode, a technology issued to securely store payment credentials and complete transactions using NFC, without relying on an in-device secure element."

Of course, the release notes that Apple will apply these commitments to the European Economic Area (EEA) and Apple IDs registered in the area. That means it's likely Apple will keep it limited to Europe, instead of opening up Apple Pay globally. 

It could also be that the company opens it up globally from the get-go since it is facing regulatory pressure in multiple regions, including in the U.S. Apple has also committed to not preventing the use of these apps for payments in stores outside the EEA, which may be more reason to go global with this move.

The commitments will last for at least a decade, the release states. We should hear more about the move as it becomes official, in the coming months.

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