Washington – Apple’s mobile-payment service Apple Pay will soon work on websites, a long-awaited feature that will pit the company directly against companies such as PayPal Holdings.
Starting this year, consumers using Apple’s Safari browser on their Mac computers, iPhones or iPads can buy items online by swiping their finger across an iPhone sensor, as they do when shopping in physical stores, Craig Federighi, a senior vice president at Apple, said on Monday in a presentation at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.
Authentication can also be done using an Apple Watch, he said.
That verification is an advantage in fighting fraud online and may help Apple gain traction with e-commerce retailers. Target, United Airlines, Lululemon Athletica and Etsy are among businesses that have signed up.
The feature will help speed up and simplify the checkout process by making it unnecessary for customers to type in credit-card numbers. That may help reduce the number who abandon their shopping carts before paying, Ajay Kapur, chief executive officer of Moovweb, which adapts websites for mobile devices.
“Apple Pay for the web is probably the biggest thing in e-commerce technology that I can remember, since e-commerce itself,” Kapur said in an interview ahead of the announcement. “With a thumbprint, it will be as seamless as buying on Amazon.”
His company is investing $10m in building Apple Pay into its online software, he said.
The feature is only available through Apple’s Safari browser, and not on Google’s Chrome, the world’s most-popular browser, which has more than a billion mobile users.
“Apple Pay in browser limited to Safari is going to be a tough one to swallow for many,” said Ben Bajarin, an analyst at Creative Strategies, wrote on Twitter.
Still, the move online is a blow to companies like PayPal, which offers shoppers one-click payment, said Roger Entner, an analyst with Recon Analytics LLC. PayPal also lets users of certain devices log into their accounts with a fingerprint reader.
“For PayPal, it’s pretty much a direct attack on their core business,” Entner said in an interview. “If Apple figures out a more convenient way of going through the authentication process, customers that have Apple Pay may pick that and not use PayPal.”
PayPal, a payment option on Apple.com, has much larger scale in the payments market, said PayPal spokesperson Anuj Nayar.
The company has 14 million active merchant accounts, and 170 million active consumer accounts, he said. “PayPal is much more than a button on a website,” he said. “What we are building is truly an operating system for digital commerce.”