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Apple is not in the crypto game – Waiting for mass consumer acceptance

Tom Cleveland trader
Updated 18 Mar 2021

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If you are dreaming of the day when your iPhone or other Apple device has crypto features to beat the band, don’t hold your breath. The Fintech titan has astounded others in the industry for its reluctance to join the cryptocurrency and blockchain technology wave of innovation, choosing rather to spend its time on other ventures. Is it waiting patiently for the acceptance level of all things crypto to reach a critical mass, according to its internal definition, or are they secretly planning a big surprise, typical of Apple?

Don’t count on the latter event happening either. The “new” Apple is not anything like the place where Steve Jobs worked. It sounds like it has become an old stodgy company, ruled by people that would rather follow the numbers, instead of leading and taking risks. With speculation growing since not a peep has been leaked or heard about anything remotely resembling a crypto strategy, it is not a surprise that CNN tracked down an Apple executive at a recent private event in San Francisco to ask a few questions.

What better place to start your queries than with Apple’s payment division? Facebook, Binance, Ripple, and banks have all touted blockchain technology’s “tour de force” as being in the cross-border payments arena, where antiquated banking relationships rule the process with the entire network subservient to the whims of SWIFT. If Apple was to appeal to its international audience, which would surely include a host of folks that need to send money home to families in a cheap, timely fashion, then blockchain would surely be the solution that they should be investigating.

But Jennifer Bailey, a vice president at Apple Pay, seems oblivious to the industry hype over the past year. Her admission was that someone in the depths of Apple was following the crypto evolution, but her attention was on more interesting things, like optical scanning techniques, i.e., “Quick Response” or “QR” technologies: “We think it’s interesting… We think it has interesting long-term potential, but we’re primarily focused on what consumers are using today… If you look at QR code payment solutions, if you look at the long-term potential of cryptocurrency, I think you’ll continue to see that change over time.” Ugh… Boring!

Steve Jobs often spoke of leadership and seized upon innovation, rather than be a meek follower that waited until everything was supposedly right. It never happens that way. Followers eventually get stale. The best creative minds get bored and move on, or as he said: “The doers are the major thinkers. The people that really create the things that change this industry are both the thinker and doer in one person.” His legacy seems to have been misplaced or either Apple employees feel too secure in their high-paid positions to recognize the ever present need to take risks.

Apple’s competitors are not sitting on their hands, waiting for their customers to ask for what they think they need. Jobs also instructed his minions to get close enough to their customers to be able to tell them what they wanted before they even realized the obvious. Samsung has already launched a few versions of its Galaxy phone with crypto features like a wallet. The new Galaxy Note 10 will soon arrive at stores with several new crypto additions. Even lowly HTC Corporation is into crypto in a big way, offering its Exodus version, complete with a crypto wallet and other related apps and features.

At the very least, Apple does recognize that there is a future potential with crypto applications and technology, but the new management team is convinced that the current numbers do not warrant any adventuresome behavior on their part. If such reticence had pervaded the ranks of Apple in the past for very long, there might not even be an Apple entity that we could accuse of dragging its feet so poorly, when it comes to all things crypto.

The safest route in their opinion, it appears, is to wait until there is mass consumer acceptance of cryptos, to then acquire a specialty company filled with crypto developers, and lastly feed their customer appetites with crypto features, all with the letter ”i” in front of them. Is that not the way that Steve would have done it? Not! He would have come in, looked over his present product line, observed the latest trends in the world and where they might lead, and then in his most inimitable fashion say, as he had done before: “The products suck! There’s no sex in them anymore!”

Tom has over 30 years of experience in the payments industry, including serving as CFO for various Visa International entities from 1980 until 1999, retiring with the title of Group EVP and Treasurer.