Apple is hardly the only game in town, and it's not one of the media darlings in this field, unlike Google and Square, among others. For example, Starbucks recently signed a deal with Square to use its mobile payments system -- a huge deal for Square, to be sure.
I have the Square Wallet app (formerly called Pay by Square) on my iPhone, but I have yet to find a place that accepts it. One reason may be that I favor my local coffee shop Martha & Bros. -- whose staff I know and whose coffee is intensely flavorful -- over the fairly bland McDonald's of coffee drinks. Still, everywhere I go I check the Square Wallet app to see if anyone nearby uses it. Very few do, despite Square's prominence. And forget about the hordes of wannabes.
Ironically, Square got its start with its card-swipe hardware add-on for iPhones and iPod Touches -- similar to the sled approach used by Nordstrom Rack and others. And Square remains a big player in the Apple-based terminal market. At least Square's client technology is in use in dozens of pilots. Google's big mobile payments push a year ago has gone nowhere, and the Isis consortium of credit card processors -- which don't want to share transaction revenues with the likes of Apple, Google, or Square -- has been bogged down by endless rounds of meetings. Isis will finally launch its initial rollout this coming Monday, though just in two cities (Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas).
Apple is famous for creating a new technology and infecting users with it: iTunes, the iPhone, and the iPad. It's also known for reinventing a flailing technology and infecting users with a version that works: the iPod and Apple TV. What's interesting in the context of mobile payments is Apple's growing traction on the business side, with retailers. That's not typical of Apple, but it may represent a new strategy to target the market from both sides.
Look at Apple's announcement this spring about getting most of the world's carmakers to adopt Siri as a user interface in their upcoming automobiles. Or Apple's quiet but methodical enablement of first mobile device management in iOS and now in OS X, which makes Apple devices slide much more easily into the complex world of IT management after decades of being ignored by IT tools.
I don't think for a minute that Apple will monopolize the mobile payments market the way it does the tablet market, the music market, or the MP3 player market. But I do think it is a quiet giant in an industry that we interact with every day. It's also a bellwether for that industry's payments technology -- on both sides of the transaction.
This article, "Apple's iPod Touch is fast becoming the new cash register," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Smart User blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.