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Rumour: Apple puts foot in the door of mobile payments industry

Using your iPhone as a mobile payment system can be a bit of a pain. There's really no way to just use a credit card attached to your iTunes account to buy whatever you want — not unless you're shopping in an Apple store. Otherwise, a retailer has to have a Square or Paypal-based system set up if customers want to take a stab at transforming their smartphones into mobile, digital wallets (to name two examples).

That all said, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple is looking to enter the mobile payments race itself. Not only are company executives meeting with other industry executives to discuss ways in which Apple might be able to help users pay for retail goods using their iPhones, but it's reported that the company's own vice president for its online store, Jennifer Bailey, has been tasked with getting Apple-based mobile payments up to speed.

Naturally, Apple isn't offering any comment on the rumours. Apple's shareholders are certainly pushing for a new solution, however. In an open letter sent to the company this week, billionaire investor and chief Apple instigator Carl Icahn made it known that it's time for Apple to step up to the mobile payments plate.

"In terms of whether the marketplace is well addressed by mobile payments solutions, Tim Cook has said 'I think it is in its infancy... I think it is just getting started and just of out of the starting block.' With the fingerprint sensor, iBeacon, 575+ million credit card numbers stored in iTunes, and Apple's homogeneous iOS installed base with 79% of devices using iOS 7, we believe a revolutionary payments solution is now a very real opportunity that the company could choose to pursue," Icahn wrote.

Other important numbers that have likely spurred Apple executives to action include Forrester Research's projections that the mobile payment market is going to grow from $12.8 billion (£7.7 billion) in 2012 sales to a mighty $90 billion (£54.4 billion) in 2017.

Apple has been described as the "sleeping giant" in regards to mobile payments — the company has the infrastructure in place, it just hasn't managed to put all the pieces together yet to most effectively enable the practice. That includes the Touch ID verification system on its iPhone 5s, its iBeacons in-store location-tracking system, and some of the dabbling it has done in allowing users to make in-store purchases at Apple retail stores with their mobile devices.

Once it does, however, it's thought that Apple will enter the field as a juggernaut, definitely attracting the attention of merchants looking to make the payment process easier for their customers.