Is Apple Considering Crypto Adoption?

In an interview with CNN Business, Apple Pay VP Jennifer Bailey dropped an interesting hint about the company’s future plans for cryptocurrency adoption. “We’re watching cryptocurrency,” Bailey told CNN’s Christine Romans. “We think it’s interesting. We think it has interesting long-term potential.”

While Bailey’s somewhat vague statement is far from a clear indication of Apple’s future plans in the cryptocurrency space — if such plans exist at all — it does show that the tech giant isn’t ignoring the technology. If nothing else, Apple Pay’s developers have a vested interest in staying ahead of the curve in the cryptocurrency-backed payments space. With major new crypto-focused initiatives on the horizon — Facebook’s proposed Libra cryptocurrency, for instance — the company can’t afford to ignore crypto entirely.

This isn’t the first time that hints about Apple’s interest in cryptocurrency and blockchain have filtered out from the famously secretive company. In early 2019, Apple referred to the development of in-house “Blockchain Guidelines” in an otherwise routine filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The guidelines were developed in partnership with the Responsible Business Alliance’s Responsible Minerals Initiative, a voluntary effort to “support mineral supply chain due diligence” using blockchain technology.

Apple also filed a patent in 2017 for an idea called “secure element” that used “multi-check architecture” for timestamping documents. In effect, this technology would combine cryptocurrency-like mining concepts with Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) tools. While this new technology was likely designed with data security in mind, it could also be used as the basis for a new, Apple-owned method of cryptocurrency mining.

Apple also faces increased pressure to adopt some form of native cryptocurrency management from smartphone rival Samsung. The South Korean hardware maker has invested heavily in cryptocurrency-mining technology in recent years, including the integration of secure bitcoin and Ethereum wallets in their Galaxy S10 line of smartphones. While Apple would no doubt prefer a future where Apple Pay is a dominant payment method across the globe, the lack of a secure, native cryptocurrency wallet on the iPhone could be seen as a dealbreaker by some consumers, particularly in the increasingly cryptocurrency-friendly Southeast Asian market.