Apple’s Tim Cook Surprised at Pace of Mobile Payments Adoption

February 16, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

There’s little doubt that mobile payments as a whole are moving along at a good clip, with lots of new users stepping in and new platforms being offered to support these new users. There are those, however, who find the pace of adoption to be actually slower than expected. Folks like Apple’s CEO Tim Cook are among them, and during a recent shareholder meeting, he made his opinion clear on this point.

Cook has been on record as being against cash as far back as 2016, when he noted Apple’s plans to ultimately kill paper currency. He may have underestimated the power of sheer inertia on the cultural level, however, as his former plans for cultural murder have been replaced with vague hopes. Cook noted “I’m hoping that I’m still going to be alive to see the elimination of money.”

Additionally, Cook noted that mobile payments had “…taken off slower than I personally would have thought if you asked me sitting here a few years ago,” despite the fact that Apple largely started the mobile payments industry as we know it today. Yet Cook appears to realize that adoption can’t go all that fast due to the sheer number of moving parts in the system, including older point-of-sale (POS) terminals.

Cook raises excellent points about the nature of mobile payments; it’s one thing for a payment platform to come out, but if it can’t be used in stores where people normally shop, there’s little point. It’s like, as the episode of “Rick and Morty” once declared, “trying to use Disney Bucks at a Caesar’s Palace.” This is interesting as Apple Pay competitor Samsung Pay has something of a leg up on Apple in that regard—it can be used just about anywhere a credit card can be used—but it isn’t seeing all that big of use either.

In the end, there are several factors contributing to slow overall development in the mobile payment space. Lack of use cases, a broadly diffuse system with device makers, banks and individual stores all in play, and other factors are making mobile payments something of a slow growth area, but a growth area nonetheless as new users jump in routinely.