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Will Apple Sell A Smart Wallet For Your Smartphone?


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary. It's that time of year again. Kids are back to school, summer is coming to a close. The leaves are about to change color. And this week, Apple will release yet another new iPhone. Rumor has it there will be two models, but the biggest innovation will be bigger screens. And that's not exactly groundbreaking says New York Times tech writer Farhad Manjoo.

FARHAD MANJOO: Yeah. I mean, this has been the criticism of Apple for several years now, essentially since Steve Jobs died. You know, the smartphone market basically has gotten mature. You know, every new feature you add to them, they're not going to be the main thing you do with your phone. It's going to be kind of an additional feature. The growth in the smartphone market, at the moment, is in Asian countries. That's kind of a huge new market in India. And Apple is really going after those areas.

The other thing we're probably going to see this week from Apple is a completely new device, what has been rumored to be a smart watch. It's been long rumored, and, you know, it will be the first new kind of device they've released since they released the iPad pad in 2010.

NEARY: Yeah. I wonder if the smart watch, though, can really get even close to just how exciting and special mobile technology seemed back in 2007 with the first iPhone.

MANJOO: Yeah. It can't. So the iPhone was, in many ways, kind of a once-in-a-generation kind of technology. It was like the personal computer. The difference with the phones and with personal computers in the past is that we have phones with us all the time and we use them all the time. And the other thing is that every one of us has one. So they're individual devices. And that really expanded the market. I mean, the market for mobile phones is much, much larger than the market for personal computers. And Apple has a huge part of it. They have the most profitable segment of the smartphone market. And the watch market is not going to be the same. There's not going to be sort of another kind of devise that's like that. But the smart watch could be, you know, one of those devices that adds a nice chunk of extra money to Apple's bottom line every year.

NEARY: Well, I think there's also rumors that this new phone might have mobile wallet technology where you could actually use the phone itself in lieu of a credit card or in lieu of cash. I mean, could that be a game changer if the phone does have that?

MANJOO: People in the technology industry have long waited for this kind of technology. And there are many different companies that are doing this kind of electronic payment systems. And there have been so many attempts at that and so many failures that, you know, you can't really bet that Apple will be the one to change it. This industry has been one that many people have tried to conquer and then just haven't been able to. And the phenomenal problem here is that it's really easy to pay with a credit card. Like, it's not much of a hassle. So it's hard to improve upon that experience.

NEARY: You've been covering smartphones for a long time. What would you like to see any company come up with in terms of the next big thing?

MANJOO: Yeah. The problem that I have in my life at the moment is that I use a bunch of different devices - a computer, a phone, a tablet. And there's very little kind of coordination between them. I start one activity on my computer, and then I go to my phone. And it's hard to kind of find what I was doing. Apple has begun to work on something to do that, to kind of tie in what you're doing on your computer to what you're doing on your phone. Google is doing so as well. But I think that that is sort of the next major area of innovation that I would like to see. We all are going to be using more and more devices, but so far, there's no kind of great way to make moving between them kind of seamless. And I really hope that that's kind of the place that they focus their innovation on.

NEARY: Farhad Manjoo writes about technology for The New York Times. He joins us from the studios at Stanford University. Thanks for being with us.

MANJOO: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.