Apple’s mobile payment has been around for more than half a decade now but its primary interaction with the physical world has been through NFC. While more convenient and more secure than the likes of Bluetooth or RFID, that convenience requires both the phone and the terminal to have the hardware necessary to enable it. Now it seems that Apple is working on adding support for scanning QR codes and barcodes that could open the system to more users and potentially make it safer given today’s health situation.
9to5Mac discovered evidence of this new feature in the second developer beta of iOS 14. They weren’t able to get it to work aside from revealing an image but its mere existence is already a huge deal. It’s also something that Apple has never talked about so the exact timeline of its launch is still up in the air.
According to the leak, the QR code system can work both ways, something that may be familiar to users of other phone-based mobile payment and digital wallet platforms. The most direct way is for a user to scan a QR code using the iPhone camera to pay for an item associated with that code. The reverse might also work, with the iPhone displaying a QR code that a terminal can then scan to authorize a payment that will charge the amount from the user’s wallet.
Support for scanning codes comes at a time when contact with surfaces is being avoided or discouraged. While NFC can work with a very small gap between the transmitter and the receiver, most simply tap their smartphone on a terminal, potentially exposing the mobile device to microorganisms or viruses lingering on the terminal. Scanning, in contrast, can be done over a safe distance with no contact between devices or people.
Despite having been found in an iOS 14 beta, there is no assurance it will land later this year. Other than being incomplete, the feature was also not found in the first developer beta, hinting that it’s still a work in progress and could be launched at a much later date than iOS 14.