Is Apple unlocking the backdoor for bitcoin?
At last week’s Apple announcement, CEO Tim Cook introduced Apple Pay, the company’s new digital payment service. Though other tech companies (cough, Google, cough) have tried to replace the wallet, they’ve failed to gain any significant traction in the marketplace.
Apple’s entrance into the payments space – which Cook playfully dismissed as “huge business” (there are $12 billion in transactions a day in the US) – is different in a couple ways. 1., it’s Apple. The company has tremendous brand equity and an army of eager early adopters. 2., Apple has high frequency merchant partners, like McDonald’s, Walgreens, Groupon, and more, that will help re-train people’s purchasing habits.
“This industry is a two-sided network. For digital payments to work, you need users and merchants, Apple has both,” said David Ripley, CEO and Co-Founder of Glidera, a Chicago-based bitcoin startup.
The other element necessary to accelerate Apple Pay will be the widespread adoption of NFC or Near Field Communication devices. (You know the little machine that reads your Starbucks app? Apple Pay will need those everywhere).
So Apple’s going to be spending significant resources getting people familiar with mobile payments and merchants logistically compatible.
“They’re doing the work for us,” said Ripley
The “us” Ripley is referring to is the Bitcoin industry.
“Bitcoin is faster, cheaper, and safer than Apple Pay and it will always be. Especially for merchants. Once people are comfortable with the idea of using their phones to digitally complete a transaction, the benefits of digital currencies start to come into play.”
Ripley sees Apple Pay as a high profile on-ramp for bitcoin users.
“If a percentage of Apple users end up liking the benefits of Apple Pay, like its location-based features, they’ll see that bitcoin is already doing all of this. The service will help push bitcoin along.”
And Ripley’s betting that it will. The startup that he co-founded, Glidera, opens up to the public this Fall and will be operating in a space that’s seeing more competitors launch daily. Like Coinbase, Glidera offers users a fast, secure, and easy online wallet to save, buy, and use bitcoins. But unlike other digital wallets, Glidera doesn’t actually hold onto the currency. Leveraging the cyrpto-currency’s multi-signature architecture, the innovative platform requires three keys in order to access bitcoins; the user has one key, Glidera has the second, and the third is offline. This way, the user both controls his or her money and enjoys the security provided by a third party.
“We’re happy to see Apple Pay and we believe that it will accelerate bitcoin adoption.”
And if it does, Glidera will be ready to welcome the new users.