Apple Tap to Pay turns your iPhone into a contactless payments terminal

Apple Tap to Pay contactless iphone payment
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple has revealed a new service that will transform your iPhone into a payment terminal able to accept contactless payments.

The new Tap to Pay service means that businesses will be able to accept Apple Pay and other contactless payments simply by using iPhone and a partner-enabled iOS app, the company says.

Initially available in the US, Apple says that "millions" of merchants will be able to benefit from seamless payments, with no extra hardware needs apart from an iPhone.

Apple Tap to Pay

“As more and more consumers are tapping to pay with digital wallets and credit cards, Tap to Pay on iPhone will provide businesses with a secure, private, and easy way to accept contactless payments and unlock new checkout experiences using the power, security, and convenience of iPhone,” said Jennifer Bailey, Apple’s vice president of Apple Pay and Apple Wallet. 

“In collaboration with payment platforms, app developers, and payment networks, we’re making it easier than ever for businesses of all sizes — from solopreneurs to large retailers — to seamlessly accept contactless payments and continue to grow their business.”

Merchants will need to use a supporting iOS app on an iPhone XS or later device, with customers able to pay with an iPhone or Apple Watch that supports Apple Pay.

The company noted that Tap to Pay uses the same technology that makes Apple Pay private and secure to make sure customer payment data is protected, with all Tap to Pay on iPhone transactions encrypted and processed using the Secure Element. As with Apple Pay, Apple says it doesn’t know what is being purchased or who is buying it.

Reports of a contactless payment system for iPhones first emerged a few weeks ago, with the lucrative payments market apparently proving irrestible to Apple.

The company paid around $100 million for Canadian smartphone payment firm Mobeewave back in 2020, with the latter's know-how in pre-existing iPhone hardware, including NFC, which is already used for Apple Pay, likely to have contributed to the launch of Tap to Pay.

The launch puts Apple firmly in contest with the likes of Block, previously known as Square, which has been offering a similar system for many years, albeit with a dedicated card reader. But these systems rely on external hardware rather than a ubiquitous device like the iPhone, which could help Apple leapfrog rivals in the space. 

Apple confirmed that Stripe will be the first payment platform to offer Tap to Pay on iPhone to its business customers, including the Shopify Point of Sale app this spring. 

It added that additional payment platforms and apps will follow later this year.

Mike Moore
Deputy Editor, TechRadar Pro

Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK's leading national newspapers and fellow Future title ITProPortal, and when he's not keeping track of all the latest enterprise and workplace trends, can most likely be found watching, following or taking part in some kind of sport.