Apple Inc. has reportedly acquired technology that enables smart phones equipped with near-field communication to act as point-of-sale devices with no other hardware. In the deal, news of which broke as the weekend began, the Cupertino, Calif.-based iPhone maker has bought Mobeewave Inc., a 9-year-old technology firm based in Montreal. The price was not disclosed, though sources contacted by Digital Transactions News say the deal may have closed as early as February and involved a price tag anywhere from $120 million to $150 million.
Mobeewave in October launched with Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. a capability that allows mobile phones without dongles or other card-reader attachments to process card transactions via an NFC link between a contactless card and the device. In January, it followed up with a service that speeds up onboarding for merchants looking to exploit the capability.
Samsung’s Samsung Pay wallet is a keen rival for Apple’s Apple Pay, and Samsung, through its Samsung Ventures arm, late in January invested $3.5 million in Mobeewave in a Series B funding round. Previous investors include Mastercard Inc., which participated with two other firms in a November 2018 round. Now, the company has fallen into the hands of Apple. Contacts at Apple and Mobeewave did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Samsung’s wallet works on phones running the Android operating system, while Apple Pay relies on Apple’s iOS. As a result, observers tell Digital Transactions News it may be some time before Apple can launch a product based on Mobeewave’s technology. “They are likely to abandon the Android/Samsung version, and move it to their own hardware platform,” says a source close to the market for dongle-free mobile acceptance. “Apple will need to have everything moved to the iPhone chipset, that will take time, we heard a year. These efforts usually take a long time.”
Still, the deal may well stimulate interest in and demand for technology that can enable off-the-shelf mobile phones to act as POS devices without the need for additional hardware. Some companies, such as Santa Clara, Calif.-based MagicCube Inc., have refined the concept, known also as Soft POS, further by offering PIN entry as well.
“This deal will only ignite the market for Soft POS. It will help other serious players in this new category,” says the source.