You've probably heard that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) had a legendary first fiscal quarter. Powered by the newest iPhone iteration, Apple reported its highest quarterly net income ever. During the conference call, Apple CEO Tim Cook addressed this amazing quarter by discussing the record-breaking iPhone, App Store, and Mac sales.
After discussing sales, Cook turned his attention to iOS development. First, he discussed Apple's new programming language, Swift, and its unprecedented growth among developers, before moving on to new iOS solutions HealthKit and CarPlay. And after all that, Cook finally discussed Apple Pay. Don't let the fact that it was discussed last diminish its importance: if Gartner's latest study is of any indication Apple Pay could be a game-changer when it comes to mobile commerce.
By 2017, mobile commerce will be as important as desktop
According to Gartner, mobile commerce is a huge growth area. Because of mobile payments, in which Gartner expects "rampant interest" from consumers during 2015, mobile commerce revenue in the U.S. is forecast to rise from its current 22% of digital commerce to 50% in 2017. You can thus expect marketers to shift marketing from print and television to mobile-based advertising. A Business Insider intelligence report sees mobile ad spending increasing 43% annually, reaching $42 billion in 2018.
For an example of the potential of this market, Gartner estimates that mobile digital assistant technologies -- Apple's Siri, Google Now, and Microsoft's Cortana -- will become "autonomous mobile assistant purchasers" and automatically purchase goods for users by the end of 2016. In fact, Gartner estimates that these type of purchases will reach $2 billion annually -- and that's not even including human-initiated purchases!
Apple Pay is in control as it relates to mobile payments
And while it's important to note that mobile commerce will still use the standard credit card format, many consumers will gravitate to a mobile payments system because of the perceived safety after recent retailer data breaches. And as far as a mobile payments system goes, Apple is the 800-pound gorilla. Cook reported that 750 banks and credit unions have signed on to use Apple Pay, and the service makes up more than two-thirds of all contactless payment dollars across the three major credit card networks.
Still, for a payment system to continue to flourish, it will require buy-in from banks, credit card networks, and especially retailers. And there's continued momentum on that front. During the conference call, Cook mentioned a new Apple Pay partnership with USA Technologies for inclusion in roughly 200,000 businesses, vending machines, and other payment processing venues. USA Technologies rallied 12% on the news.
Gartner also mentions new credit card standards as a possible catalyst to speed merchant approval of Apple Pay, although it should be noted that some retailers are lining up behind a rival system called CurrentC.
Incremental revenue is great; a sticky ecosystem is even better
As far as monetization goes, Apple will earn roughly 0.15% of the transaction amount for Apple Pay transactions. And while it's hard to model what that will be years from now, that hasn't stopped Wall Street analysts from trying. Nomura Securities estimated that Apple Pay will produce $1.6 billion in incremental revenue by 2017. Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster projects a more conservative figure of $118 million in 2015 and $310 million the year after.
However, considering the most aggressive estimate is less than 1% of last fiscal year's total revenue haul, perhaps Apple Pay won't be a huge part of Apple's revenue story. But that doesn't mean it isn't important. Consider Apple Pay yet another feature to entrap users into its sticky ecosystem that will keep them coming back for more iPhones, iPads, and any future iDevice the company puts on the market.