Apple Hints At A New Way To Connect People Through Cash

A new patent filing conjures up the idea that we could all be a little more generous any time we have our phones with us.

Apps like Square and Venmo have turned smartphones into an extension of the wallet, so it may come as no surprise that Apple wants to inject itself into the mobile payment industry that depends on its hardware and software—a segment tha has for years been touted as the next big thing.

Just last week a few months ago (though it was released to the public last week), the world’s most valuable company filed a patent application that describes an interesting twist on the mobile payment concept: The unnamed technology is described as an "ad-hoc cash-dispensing network" that would let nearby strangers borrow cash from one another. Say you need two dollars for bus fare. Hit up this program (presumably an app?) with your request, and it would facilitate a meetup with a willing stranger near you. The lender gives you the two dollars, and the app takes the same amount from your bank account and puts it in his. The patent filing describes applying service fees to the cash requester, which could be split between the lender and the service itself.

While the idea seems to be just that for now, it presents an interesting twist on the mobile payment scheme. Despite the possibility that someday physical cash will become obsolete, for now, there’s been no way for smartphones to address the divide between the reality of digital and physical money. You could have thousands available on your PayPal account, but still miss the bus because you don’t have six quarters on hand. Or you can’t buy a soda because your local bodega only takes cash—and maybe Apple’s fee could just undercut ATM’s enough to make it worth it.

This isn’t the first patent application for a mobile payment technology that Apple has filed. Past ones include variations on price scanners and person-to-person payment systems for the iPhone.

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