When is Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) going to wake up and transform iTunes or Passbook -- or some combination of the two -- into an e-wallet accessible from any iPhone? Time is running out.

Last month, PayPal teamed with Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) to bring its popular payments platform to the 7 million or so merchants that accept the Discover card. A simple iOS app will do the trick in most cases.

Earlier today, Groupon (Nasdaq: GRPN) announced a mobile payments service for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Called Groupon Payments, the system advertises credit card processing at rates lower than other merchant outfits. The stock traded up as much as 11% on the news.

Is this a win for Groupon or a loss for Apple? Honestly, I'm not sure, so let's consider what we know. First, we know mobile payments are catching on. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) has seen usage of Google Wallet double since the company released a new version that supports all credit and debit cards.

Second, Apple doesn't have a de facto payments platform for anything, let alone the iPhone. PayPal and now Groupon are working to fill the gap. A consortium of retailers led by Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) also wants in on this market, which by some estimates will grow to $600 billion by 2016.

Why aren't Apple investors more concerned about this? History may hold the answer. Apple is rarely first or even best with its products. Instead, the company focuses on developing a tightly woven ecosystem of goodness that makes accomplishing tasks simple. The Mac maker's developers may still be working on cracking this code when it comes to mobile payments.

Taking a bite of the Apple
This and other issues notwithstanding, Apple remains one of the world's best-positioned companies. If you're thinking of buying (or already own shares), now's a great time to sign up for our premium research service. You'll get a complete rundown of everything you need to know about the Mac maker plus a bonus iPhone 5 report with ideas for profiting from the new device. Sign up today and enjoy free updates for a year.