The Evolution of Payment Systems


With Apple Pay coming out soon, I’ve been thinking a bit about payment systems. Specifically, I’ve been wondering where we are and where we’re about to go, relative to what’s possible.

Here’s a lazy thrust at the evolution:

  1. Barter

  2. Hard currency

  3. Paper currency

  4. Credit cards

  5. Mobile payments (Apple Pay / Google Wallet)

  6. Interactionless (Uber)

Is #6 the top level? Certainly seems to be.

The main point of this is that Apple Pay, while phenomenal, is not a play at the top level—or at least not yet.

You still have to pull something out of your pocket, interact with it, and then use it to interact with something on the merchant side.

The final level, which isn’t mainstream yet but is absolutely a reality, takes that step out.

Using some systems like Square you can just tell the guy at the coffee shop register your name and their “register” and your device will sort out the details. No finagling with your device at all.

I look forward to seeing what Apple does at level #6 in the coming months and years.