Steve Jobs spent his career more focused on personal computing than on personal banking, but under him Apple Computer still left a lasting mark on the world of finance.
Jobs, who died Wednesday, famously popularized the consumer smartphone with the 2007 introduction of the original iPhone. Although Apple’s app store did not launch for another year, developers soon began designing their own unofficial software for the handset, which set the pace for banks to follow.
Its two-megapixel camera made the iPhone one of the few cell phones of its time with the resolution necessary to mobile check capture.
When Apple officially launched its app store in 2008, its rigid standards for vetting each app sent a message of trust to consumers. Bankers who for years had been grappling with hacker threats—from phishing to spoof sites—soon flocked to the iPhone and similar smartphones to deliver secure banking services.
With Jobs at the helm, Apple also had a direct hand in setting the standards in banking and payments. The company’s iTunes digital media store was one of the clearest early examples of a merchant successfully aggregating small-dollar payments to save on transaction fees. Its app store is also one of the most successful mobile-payment systems in use today, allowing users who tap their phone’s screen to buy from a seemingly endless catalog of software and music.
Although its iconic leader is now gone, Apple appears well positioned to remain in the vanguard of the remote payments world. Its patents give hints to several approaches it could take to handling point-of-sale payments. There is also, however, the risk that with Jobs gone the company could fall behind. Its latest iPhone, introduced in the past week, does not contain a contactless payment chip like that Google's rival Nexus S phone uses.
In banking as elsewhere, all eyes are now on Tim Cook, who took over from Jobs as Apple’s chief executive officer in August and must now try to carry on a remarkable legacy of innovation on his own.