British company Curve will challenge Apple Wallet with a new payment system

A London-based financial technology company, Curve, has announced plans to introduce the first alternative to Apple Wallet, paving the way for greater competition in digital payments.

Curve's innovative system allows users to make “tap and go” payments on their phone by downloading the Curve app and setting it as their default payment method. Currently, iPhone users can only use Apple's own payment system for this feature.

The development follows the conclusion of a European Commission investigation that began in 2020, which led to Apple granting rivals free access to its Near Field Communication (NFC) chip. This chip enables payments via mobile devices, and Apple has also unlocked the necessary permissions and application programming interfaces (APIs) so that other companies can develop payment solutions.

While Apple is still finalizing the technical details, a spokesperson for Curve confirmed that their product would be ready for launch as soon as these are resolved. Curve claims that this change will save banks “millions of euros” currently paid to Apple in transaction fees.

Apple Wallet, exclusive to iPhones and other Apple hardware, stores sensitive information ranging from credit card information to airline tickets. While the introduction of alternative payment providers will not immediately impact other regions, ongoing investigations by regulators could lead to further changes. For example, the US Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Apple in March, alleging that the company has monopolized the smartphone market, hindering competition and innovation.

Founded in 2015 by Shachar Bialick, 42, Curve consolidates users' banking and loyalty cards into one app, with more than four million customers spending £3.2 billion through the platform by 2022. Despite cutting more than 100 jobs by 2022, Curve aims to achieve profitability this year, generating revenue through card transactions, cash withdrawals, currency exchanges and subscription services. The company reported a turnover of £45m last year, up 320% on the previous year, with a pre-tax loss of £24.2m, down 57%.

Commenting on the market shift, Bialick said: “The new competitive digital wallet market is about to experience true customer-centric innovation.” Other companies, including Vipps MobilePay, are also about to introduce their own products.

Apple's traditional business model faces even more challenges beyond just digital payments. Regulatory scrutiny has also focused on the music platform, Apple Watch's exclusivity on the iOS operating system and its messaging system. The recent passage of the UK's Digital Markets Act and new European digital competition legislation have put pressure on Apple to open up iOS to alternative in-app payment systems and app stores.

Daniel Ek, 41, CEO of Spotify and a longtime critic of Apple's app store policies, praised the new British law, saying it “has the potential to unlock real competition and growth and that Apple must be held accountable in Britain because we can't miss the opportunity to get it right.”

Apple claims that its closed system ensures customer privacy and security, arguing that the mandatory changes will lead to “unavoidable increased privacy and security threats.” Nevertheless, the landscape of digital wallets and payment systems will evolve rapidly as regulators and market players push for greater competition and innovation.

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