Apple said to be planning person-to-person payments service

Report says service isn't imminent but could launch in 2016

Apple is in talks with major banks on an extension of its Apple Pay service that would allow person-to-person payments.

Apple Pay is coming to Australia this year.

The discussions are continuing and it's unclear whether any banks have struck a deal with Apple, reported The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, citing "people familiar with the talks."

The newspaper said the envisaged service would allow users to send payments from their checking accounts to others using their phone and isn't imminent. It said one person had told it the service could launch in 2016.

A number of banks are involved in the talks, including JP Morgan Chase, Capital One, Wells Fargo and US Bancorp, it said.

The service, if it does launch, would immediately inject hype into the nascent person-to-person mobile payments market.

Several competing services currently offer such payments, but their penetration is still low among smartphone users. Among these is Venmo, from PayPal, and services from Google and Facebook.

The mobile payments market got a huge visibility boost last year when Apple launched Apple Pay. It debuted about three years after Google launched Google Wallet, but proved to be the catalyst that kick-started serious development and competition in the market.

Still, the overall use of smartphones for payments remains low. Companies are keen to increase that as they stand to make a slice of each purchase in transaction fees.

But Apple's proposed service might not bring it riches directly. The Wall Street Journal said banks wouldn't be charged for participating in the service, which might mean Apple views it as a loss-leader that would attract more customers to its iPhone or help to normalize the use of Apple Pay among consumers.

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Martyn Williams

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