Apple pledges to open iPhone ‘tap and go’ tech to rivals

11 Jul 2024

Image: © tang90246/

Apple will now let third-party wallet providers access NFC technology on iOS devices free of charge, without having to use a service like Apple Pay or Apple Wallet.

The European Commission has accepted Apple’s commitments to open access to contactless payment technology on iPhones, ending a probe that began four years ago into the tech giant’s practices.

The Commission shared Apple’s various agreements and said they are now legally binding under EU antitrust rules. The key commitment is that Apple will let third-party wallet providers access the NFC technology on iOS devices free of charge, without having to use Apple Pay or Apple Wallet.

NFC – or near-field communication – lets people make secure transactions with their mobile and quickly connect electronic devices. This is also known as ‘tap and go’ tech. Apple Pay is an example of a service that uses NFC, letting iPhone users quickly make payments from their devices.

But the European Commission claimed last year that Apple abused its dominant market position by preventing rivals from accessing NFC technology on iOS systems, benefitting its own Apple Pay service.

In response, Apple pledged to make various concessions around how it handles contactless payments on its iPhone. This was likely done over the risk of fines, as there was a threat that the EU could have penalised Apple with charges worth tens of billions of euro.

As part of its now legally binding commitments, Apple will enable access to NFC in host card emulation (HCE) mode, which lets users complete NFC transactions without relying on an in-device secure element like Apple Pay.

EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager said the commitment opens up competition in “this crucial sector” by preventing Apple from excluding other mobile wallets from the iPhone’s ecosystem.

“Today’s decision makes Apple’s commitments binding,” Vestager said. “From now on, competitors will be able to effectively compete with Apple Pay for mobile payments with the iPhone in shops. So consumers will have a wider range of safe and innovative mobile wallets to choose from.”

Vestager and Apple still have issues however, as she recently called out the tech giant’s decision to delay the roll-out of certain AI features in the EU as a “stunning, open declaration” of the company’s attempts to “disable competition” in the region.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic